He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office has not announced a cause.
The county’s school district said it would not allow further summer-break conditioning sessions until district staff conducts an inquiry of the safety procedures at each school. Coaches were told to review safety protocols and check student records to ensure they are eligible to take part in offseason activities.
The Hillborough school district said in a statement that both actions are “already required by longstanding district procedures, but we are bringing them back to the forefront.”
Football practice does not officially start until later in the summer, but teams all over the nation often use the beginning of summer break for optional fitness and weight training. The sessions provide opportunities for younger players to gain strength necessary to compete with older, stronger classmates and to meet members of the coaching staff, who supervise the training.
Police told the Times that the conditioning activities included weightlifting and wind sprints and involved regular rest and water breaks.
“We are devastated by the death of one of our students,” a school district spokeswoman said in a statement. “This student was an amazing young man who was loved by his friends, teachers and staff at school. We were heartbroken to hear the news that he later passed away.”
“Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah,” Walters’s family said in a statement. “We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace. As we grieve our loved one, we ask for your prayers and that you respect our privacy during this time.”
Fatalities in high school and college football are rare occur most often because of exertion either in drills, conditioning activities or competition.
In 2018, four high school players and three college players died in “indirect” football activities, meaning football activities, not trauma on the field, was the cause of death, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. Of those, two occurred during conditioning sessions and one occurred during weight training.
Nine players died because of “indirect” causes in 2017, including four during conditioning sessions and one while weight training.