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Kansas football coach implicated in player's death takes a new coaching job in Florida

Photo collage shows a background of a practice football field with a tackling dummy that has the words "Surge 70" printed on it. On top of the background is a photo of a young, Black man (Tirrell Williams) holding a football in front of part of his face. Also on the photo is a man in a sport jacket (Carson Hunter)  talking at a podium. Behind him is a background with "Wind Surge" printed on it.
Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno
Facebook/Jayhawk Network
Tirrell Williams, of Gretna, Louisiana, died of heat stroke in August 2021 after practice at Fort Scott Community College.

Carson Hunter was running practice at Ft. Scott Community College the day 19-year-old Tirrell Williams collapsed after running sprints. He is a part time assistant football coach at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, an NCAA Division II school.

Despite being involved in the August 2021 death of a football player while head coach at Fort Scott Community College, former head coach Carson Hunter has landed a new coaching job.

KCUR has discovered that Hunter is now a part time coach at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

“Staff was aware of the unfortunate death of a student-athlete that occurred at Fort Scott Community College,” Argonauts Athletic Director Dave Scott said in an email to KCUR.

WFU athletic department officials would not answer questions about how they first became aware of the death at FSCC or whether they have concerns about Hunter having contact with players given the incident in Fort Scott. They also declined to say whether his current position could lead to a full time coaching job for Hunter.

Lineman dies after summer workout

19-year-old Tirrell Williams, a lineman from Louisiana, died last August after the team was forced to run sprints, according to interviews with players and the trainer at the time at FSCC.

Williams was beloved by his teammates.

“This dude never stopped smiling. It could be raining, and he would be literal sunshine,” said Donald Harper, a teammate from Fort Scott. “There was no sadness in him. He was all joy.”

A death certificate provided to the family said he suffered a brain injury from lack of oxygen, septic shock and muscle tissue damage.

The sprints weren’t part of the planned pre-season workout. Players interviewed by KCUR said the team was being punished because Hunter, a lawyer-turned-football coach, found a candy wrapper on the field.

Hunter essentially lost his job when the FSCC Board of Trustees abruptly eliminated the 93-year-old football program in November 2021. FSCC President Alysia Johnston denied the death of Williams had anything to do with ending football at the college, citing instead a lack of money. She also said the college has no culpability in Williams’ death.

“We could find nothing that we did that contributed to the young man's very unfortunate and tragic death,” she told KCUR in December.

An attorney for the Williams family says he sent a letter to FSCC in April putting the college on notice that a lawsuit will most likely be filed.

A new coaching job in Florida

Emails and documents obtained by KCUR through the Florida Public Records Act show Hunter first had contact with West Florida head football coach Pete Shinnick in December, four months after Williams died.

“Have a great Christmas and if you are looking for a spot to land for the spring let me know,” Shinnick said in an email to Hunter. “I would like to talk with you about that.”

Hunter signed his job application on Jan. 11, 2022. He listed his duties at FSCC as “Recruit, Develop and Lead the football team.”

Hunter is making $10.25 an hour for 20 hours a week on a six-month renewable appointment, according to WFU.

Heat is dangerous for college athletes

Heat deaths are an issue across college sports.

In a November 2021 column,“The Heat Is On: Exertional Heatstroke in Football,” in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports, former University of Oklahoma team doctor Randy Eichner wrote: “In a span of just 2 months last summer, from late June to late August, nine football players collapsed and died. All nine were linemen. All nine were at the mercy of demanding coaches in brutal heat. All nine were teenagers.”

The death at FSCC was similar to that ofBraeden Bradforth, who died of exertional heat stroke at Garden City Community College in 2018. Both players were 19 years old, both were Black and both were 6-foot-3-inch linemen weighing more than 300 pounds.

Former GCCC head coach Jeff Sims is out of football. Sims is now the managing director at You Move Me, a franchised moving company in Lenexa, Kansas.

Sims left GCCC after the 2018 season and was head coach at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin before being fired there in 2020.

GCCC settled with Bradforth's family in 2020 for $500,000, the maximum allowed under Kansas law.

The family recently settled a lawsuit against St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Kansas, one of its emergency department doctors and Emergency Medical Services of Finney County for an undisclosed amount.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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