An 18-year-old Forestville High School football star who sang the national anthem before home games died yesterday, reportedly after swallowing about six chunks of the cocaine derivative crack, Prince George's County police said.

Rico Leroy Marshall, who gained 1,026 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last season as a running back, died at Prince George's Hospital Center at 4:10 a.m.

Before he died, Marshall told a girlfriend that he had been on the street about 1:30 a.m. when officers approached him, according to police accounts.

She said Marshall told her that he had swallowed about half a dozen "rocks," or chunks of the drug, so officers would not find it, officials said.

According to police, Marshall became ill in his home on Hamlin Street in Glenarden sometime before 3 a.m. and was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Interviewed at the family's home last night, Marshall's father, Leroy Marshall, took vehement issue with the police account of his son's death.

"I don't believe that story at all," the elder Marshall said. "He didn't use drugs at all."

The younger Marshall, a senior who stood 5 feet 11 inches and weighed 205 pounds, had been recruited intensively by leading football powers and had accepted a scholarship to attend the University of South Carolina.

He was described by his father as an able student, and acquaintances characterized him as particularly well-spoken and personable.

"He was a good kid," said Eric Knight, his football coach at Forestville. In addition to helping Forestville to an 8-3 record last season, Marshall "used to sing the national anthem at our home games," the coach said.

"He wasn't talented just on the football field," Knight added.

The coach said that he recognized the temptations of drugs in some of the neighborhoods around Forestville High.

"We always talk to our players about selling drugs and using drugs and staying away from them," he said. "We talk about that constantly . . . . "

Police said the death was still under investigation last night, and many details were not available.

Police said their account was obtained from a person they described as Marshall's girlfriend. They declined to disclose her name or address.

According to police, the girlfriend told them that Marshall had gone to her house about 2:15 a.m. yesterday and that she had driven him to his home.

While they were on the way, police said, Marshall told her that he had been in the 1400 block of Nova Avenue in Capitol Heights. That location has been described as a notorious outdoor drug market.

While Marshall was on Nova Avenue about 1:30 a.m., according to the account, he saw police officers approaching.

Because the officers were too close for him to easily throw away what crack he might have had, one police spokesman said last night, Marshall swallowed about six chunks of the drug.

Officers confronted Marshall but made no arrest.

Last night, Marshall's father said that his son appeared to be in good condition when he arrived home sometime after 2 a.m.

But after going to his bedroom he passed out and went into convulsions, the father said. The elder Marshall said he dialed 911, but he said that an ambulance was slow to arrive and slow in taking his son to the hospital.

He said he did not know whom police were referring to as his son's girlfriend, and said the younger Marshall had many friends.

The elder Marshall described his son as a well-known and well-liked victim of a "tragic accident."

The teen-ager's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore, where the initial stages of an autopsy failed to reveal the cause of death.

Dr. John E. Smialek, the chief state medical examiner, said additional tests would not be complete for several days.

Based on information provided, Smialek said, Marshall's digestive tract was searched for evidence of cocaine, but none was found.

Smialek said the interval between the alleged swallowing and Marshall's death was long enough for any cocaine to have dissolved.

Crack is a solidified form of cocaine, developed by mixing the drug with ether and heating it, Smialek said.

He said it was not immediately possible to determine how much cocaine may have been in the material that Marshall reportedly ingested.

He said that six chunks "sounds like a significant amount."

Smialek described yesterday's incident as unusual. It came about 1 1/2 years after the cocaine-related death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias.

Staff writers Carlos Sanchez and Jeffrey Yorke contributed to this report.