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‘Epitome of a UMD Bulldog’: Community, university mourns student-athlete’s death

Senior UMD Bulldog football defensive lineman Reed Ryan was declared dead Tuesday at Essentia Health in Duluth, according to the university.

DULUTH, Minn. — The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) community is mourning the loss of a student-athlete, who the school said died this week at the age of 22.

Senior UMD Bulldog football defensive lineman Reed Ryan went into cardiac arrest on Nov. 21 and died Tuesday, according to his obituary.

“This was the result of an undetected genetic heart condition and a large, loving heart,” the obituary reads, in part. “The athletic training team was tremendous in their efforts to immediately initiate CPR and regain his pulse. The ICU hospital staff at St. Mary’s-Duluth were amazing in doing everything possible for him.”

UMD officials said Ryan was “an excellent student,” double majoring in marketing and professional sales at the institution’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics.

In a statement following the student-athlete’s death, Bulldog football head coach Curt Wiese said Ryan “will be greatly missed,” and his “legacy will live on forever.”

“Our staff and players are devastated about Reed’s passing,” said Wiese. “Reed aspired to be better every day at whatever task was at hand. He helped bring out the best in others with his positive attitude, infectious smile, and genuine care for the people around him. We were fortunate to have Reed on our team, and he made our program, our department, and our community a better place in a short period of time… He was the epitome of a UMD Bulldog, and what we can all aspire to be. To his family, thank you for allowing us to be part of his inspiring young life. Reed was a Bulldog through and through.”

Before attending UMD, Ryan won two NCAA Division I AA FCS National Championships at North Dakota State University (NDSU), where he was also a three-time Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award recipient and a four-time Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll member. Ryan, a native of Waunakee, Wisconsin, left NDSU to join the Bulldogs for their 2023 season.

“I want the Ryan family to know that Bison nation, especially the Bison football team, is thinking of them,” NDSU head coach Matt Entz said.

According to UMD officials, a memorial wake will be held at Blackhawk Church in Middleton, Wisconsin on Friday, Dec. 1 from 3-7 p.m. A short wake will follow Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. and will precede a funeral service at the church that begins at 11 a.m.

“Reed had a positive impact on so many and we are deeply saddened by his passing,” said UMD director of athletics Forrest Karr, in the school’s statement. “Reed was a kind, caring and thoughtful young man who enjoyed bringing people together. He grew up in my hometown and was beloved by those who knew him in Waunakee, Fargo, Duluth, and beyond. Our thoughts and prayers are with Reed’s family and friends during this time of sorrow. We are grateful for everyone who is supporting Reed’s teammates and our staff members.”

Ryan’s death puts another spotlight on sudden cardiac arrest, which is rare overall but still the most common cause of death in young athletes.

Dr. Henri Roukoz, a cardiac electrophysiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, said the U of M screens athletes like Ryan at a higher level — including through the use of an EKG. However, even that process has limitations, he said.

“The current screening cannot catch 100 percent of these conditions,” Roukoz said. “The medical societies are working on a program to try to do randomized trials, to see what tool would be best to screen the most patients possible and catch the most patients possible without going over as far as the cost of screening. And make it practical and make it useable.”

The importance of screening has been emphasized within younger age groups, too. Mike Schoonover, whose 14-year-old son Patrick died after collapsing during a hockey game in 2014, continues to raise awareness about the issue through the Patrick Schoonover Heart Foundation and “Play for Patrick.”

The foundation has helped screen thousands of kids ages 14 to 24 over the years.

“Patrick had two undetected heart defects that we didn’t know about, so we made it our mission to start the foundation so that we could help families avoid feeling the same feeling that we had of losing a child,” Schoonover said. “We have to figure out a way to identify these kids and eliminate this from happening. Because it shouldn’t happen.”

‘Epitome of a UMD Bulldog’: Community, university mourns student-athlete’s death
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