Zach Hemmila, a redshirt senior offensive lineman for the Arizona Wildcats, passed away in his sleep last night. Head coach Rich Rodriguez and athletic director Greg Byrne announced the tragic news this afternoon, after informing the team.
SB Nation's Arizona Desert Swarm posted video of Rodriguez and Byrne's announcement to the media.
Rodriguez said that he had a conversation with Hemmila a few days ago, during which the lineman was very upbeat. From Tucson.com:
“The only thought on my mind right now is with Zach Hemmila’s family,” Rodriguez said, fighting back tears. “We lost a great young man. Everybody in our program is hurting.”
Rodriguez said he last saw Hemmila after a team meeting Sunday night. The two conversed for about 45 minutes Saturday night.
“About everything,” Rodriguez said. “How happy he was.”
Rodriguez said the rest of the conversation would remain private.
Arizona football paid tribute to Hemmila on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
Arizona players, alumni, and others around the Pac-12 and college football world have also taken to Twitter to pay their respects.
Hemmila was in contention to start at center for the Wildcats this season. He started six games for the Wildcats last season at left guard, and played in 27 games over the last two seasons.
As a recruit from Chandler High School, Zach Hemmila was a significant commit for the Wildcats. The former four-star guard was one of two blue-chip players to join Rich Rodriguez's first recruiting class at Arizona. He was also the highest rated in-state recruit in the Arizona 2012 signing class. He chose the Wildcats over Arizona State, Oregon State, and San Diego State.
No cause of death has been announced. Our thoughts go out to the Hemmila family, and the entire University of Arizona community. He was 22 years old.