TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas, a junior college transfer and onetime Tennessee starter, has died in Florida.
The university’s athletic department confirmed that the 21-year-old Douglas died Thursday but had no further details.
Douglas spent last season as Arizona Western Community College’s starting left tackle and transferred to play for the Crimson Tide in January. According to his Twitter feed, Douglas had been in the Jacksonville, Fla., area this week.
Douglas had tweeted at 11:36 p.m. CDT Wednesday asking “Anybody still up right now?!?”
“It is a tragedy anytime you lose someone close to you and even more so when it is a member of your family,” football coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “Aaron was a part of our family and always will be a part of our family at Alabama. He was an outstanding young man and we were excited about what he had accomplished as a player and a person in the short time he was with us.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, David and Karla, who are two of the best people you will ever meet and the love they had for their son was something very special.”
Douglas was vying to replace left tackle James Carpenter, a first-round NFL draft pick, during the spring. The university was already coping with a devastating tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27. Snapper Carson Tinker was injured, and his girlfriend, Ashley Anderson, was killed.
Douglas was charged with DUI in December while home in Maryville over holiday break and pleaded guilty to the charges in March, serving a 48-hour jail sentence.
Douglas initially signed with Tennessee under coach Phillip Fulmer in 2008 ranked as the No. 5 tight end in the nation by Rivals.com after four years at Maryville High School, a perennially dominant football program located just 15 miles away from the Volunteers’ Knoxville campus.
He took a redshirt his freshman season and moved to offensive tackle in Lane Kiffin’s lone season with the Vols, starting 10 games that year. Soon after Kiffin left and Tennessee hired Derek Dooley, Douglas asked for a release from his scholarship.
Douglas cited personal problems and depression from the pressure of playing close to home and for his parents’ alma mater. His father, David Douglas, was an offensive lineman for the Vols, and his mother, Karla Horton Douglas, was a Lady Volunteers basketball player.
Dooley granted Douglas’ release on condition he did not play football for a program within an eight-hour radius of Knoxville for the first season after his departure.
Douglas joined some former Maryville teammates at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., before he and teammate Jesse Williams signed with Alabama.
“It’s a tragedy and all my prayers go out to him and his family,” Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick said. “He was a great kid. He came in during the summer and helped our young kids out and was a leader on the field and off the field and did everything we asked him to do.
“He will be truly missed.”
Minnick said Douglas would often stop by the football offices to say hello and talk about the coaches’ plans for the day. He said Douglas’ parents came to games and remarked on their son’s maturation.
“They praised us and said, ‘Coach, he wasn’t like this when he was down there (in Tennessee). He’s grown up. He’s going to school and doing what he’s supposed to do,’” Minnick said.
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