Ljubomir Stamenich, 26, an all-state football player at Langley High School who later starred at the University of Virginia, died Aug. 18 of acute leukemia at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had begun a job at IBM several months earlier and was living in McLean.
Mr. Stamenich, whose name was pronounced "LUBE-o-meer STAM-uh-nitch," was a standout lineman at Langley. As a 6-foot-3, 255-pound high school senior, he was named to The Washington Post's All-Met team as a defensive end. He also played offensive tackle and was selected for several all-region and all-state teams.
At U-Va., he was a three-year starter at defensive end and made 180 tackles in his career, including 77 as a senior in 2001. After his college career, Mr. Stamenich played two years in the Arena Football League with the Albany Conquest and the Columbus Destroyers.
"If ever there was a kid you could look at and say, 'This kid was made to be a football player,' he was the one," said his high school coach, Bill Renner, now head coach at West Springfield High School. "In high school, he was a man among boys."
Known popularly as "Lube," Mr. Stamenich was a tenacious and agile player who worked hard and was known for his dedication to practice. At Langley, he also played basketball.
"He was very athletic," Renner said. "He could dunk a basketball. He was extremely fast for his size."
In a scrimmage just before his senior season at Langley, Mr. Stamenich dislocated his right shoulder but played the entire season "on one arm," his coach said.
Despite four operations, he continued to have problems with the shoulder throughout his collegiate career. Nevertheless, he was in the starting lineup for 35 of his final 36 games at U-Va. He missed one game because of a knee injury.
"He was just so much more intense than everybody else," Renner said. "Lube played football like it was his heart and soul."
Ljubomir Dragomir Stamenich was born in Fairfax, the son of a Serbian immigrant who had fought with Serbian resistance forces in World War II. Zlatan Stamenich, his father, was captured by German forces and later escaped from a Nazi prison camp. He eventually made his way to Washington, where he became the owner of several restaurants, including Jour et Nuit in Georgetown and the Serbian Crown in Great Falls.
Ljubomir Stamenich, who spoke Serbo-Croatian at home with his parents, was in the fourth grade when his mother was stricken with multiple sclerosis. She was ultimately bedridden. His father, 60 years his senior, also developed health problems and had financial reversals.
As the eldest of three children, Mr. Stamenich had to help care for his family from an early age. Most of his friends and teammates knew little of that side of his life.
"He would look you straight in the eye and was very quiet," said Art Markos, a former U-Va. assistant coach who recruited Mr. Stamenich to play for the university. "Beneath his hard, tough-guy exterior, he was really deep."
When Markos stepped down from coaching after the 2000 season to take a position in Virginia's athletic compliance office, he sent notes to the 23 players on the team whom he had either recruited or coached directly.
"I got one note back," he said. "It was from Lube. It said, 'Thank you -- thank you for helping me get my education and be around some quality people.'
"When I got that note, in my mind, Lube had transformed into a man. That's what I'll remember."
While at U-Va., he was twice named to the All-ACC Academic football team. He graduated in 2002 and, in fall 2003, received a master's degree in education from the university.
Six months ago, Mr. Stamenich joined IBM in Fairfax County as an assistant project manager in the company's government programs division. He had taken a physical in May and was pronounced healthy. After feeling sluggish, he visited an emergency room Aug. 6, and a tumor caused by two aggressive forms of leukemia was found in his chest. He died 12 days later.
Survivors, all of McLean, include his father and mother, Yelena Stamenich; a sister, Milica Stamenich; and a brother, Draza Stamenich.