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May 12, 2011

Douglas death confirmed

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas died in Fernandina Beach, Fla., Thursday. The cause of death is yet to be determined.

Douglas was discovered on a second-floor balcony by a resident at 2570 First Avenue in Fernandina Beach, according to a statement released by Fernandina Beach Chief of Police James Hurley. Witness reports to police indicated that Douglas arrived at a party at the residence around 11-11:30 p.m. and was seen as late as 2 a.m. Police are investigating the possibility of illegal alcohol consumption by some at the party. At 21, Douglas was of legal drinking age.

According to Hurley's statement, a call was placed to the police at 8:13 a.m., and Douglas was pronounced dead at the scene. Cause of death remains pending a medical examination.

Douglas' twitter account indicated he had flown to Jacksonville, Fla., just a short drive from Fernandina Beach, where Douglas was apparently visiting.

"It is with tremendous sadness that we received the news of the passing of Aaron Douglas," said Alabama Director of Athletics Mal Moore. "Our prayers and sympathies are with the Douglas family at this tragic time."

Douglas transferred to UA during the midterm from Arizona Western Community College. The Maryville, Tenn., native spent two seasons at Tennessee, starting as a right tackle in 2009, before transferring to AWCC.

"It is a tragedy anytime you lose someone close to you and even more so when it is a member of your family," said UA head football coach Nick Saban. "Aaron was a part of our family and always will be a part of our family at Alabama. He was an outstanding young man and we were excited about what he had accomplished as a player and a person in the short time he was with us."

A phone call placed to the Douglas residence went unanswered. Reaction to Douglas' death was predictably one of disheartened shock.

"Aaron was someone I've known since high school. We were from the same state, and we were being recruited at the same time. I enjoyed getting to know him, and I was looking forward to having him as a teammate the next two years," said UA offensive lineman Barrett Jones. "His loss is extremely sad, and we are going to miss him dearly. He has a wonderful family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them."

Douglas' high school coach, George Quarles, told Douglas' hometown newspaper, the Maryville (Tenn.) Daily Times, that coaching Douglas was "an honor."

"We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy," said Quarles, who is also the school's athletic director. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I cannot begin to imagine their pain. It was an honor to know and coach Aaron. I will always cherish the time we had."

Douglas participated in spring practice at Alabama and was competing for playing time at the left tackle position. He started for the White team on A-Day at left tackle, and was considered among the top junior college prospects in the nation after just one season at AWCC.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, David and Karla, who are two of the best people you will ever meet and the love they had for their son was something very special," added Saban. "As a father, there is nothing we can say to describe the loss of a son. Our Alabama family has sustained a tragic loss and the Alabama family is grieving that loss. We will be here to support Aaron's family in any way we can."

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley granted Douglas a conditional release from his scholarship at UT not long after he took over the Volunteers program from former coach Lane Kiffin. Once that release was granted, Douglas chose Arizona Western, where he was a teammate for one season with Alabama signee Jesse Williams.

"No one can understand the pain that a family must endure after the loss of a child," said Dooley. "My prayers go out to David and Karla and everyone who was close to Aaron."

A message left with Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick was not immediately returned.

Several UA players expressed their sympathies via twitter on Thursday, including former quarterback Greg McElroy, who was never formally a teammate of Douglas' but knew him briefly, and UA punter Cody Mandell.

Douglas' father, David, was an offensive lineman for UT in the mid-1980s. His mother started three seasons for the Lady Vols basketball team and was a member of head coach Pat Summitt's first national title team.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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