Metro-East News

Boy, 13, dies after collapsing at Granite City football camp

A student died Wednesday while participating at a voluntary camp for football players at Granite City High School.

The decedent is Toney Graham, 13, of Granite City.

GUESTBOOK: Offer condolences to the family of Toney Graham

Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said an autopsy indicates the boy had a heart ailment.

Nonn said football practice started at 4 p.m. with fittings for uniforms, then moved to pre-practice stretching. Nonn said the boy collapsed suddenly onto the floor. The participants were in the school gym, which has air conditioning.

Coaching staff gave aid to Graham while waiting for emergency medical responders.

Nonn said the boy hadn’t complained of illness, and witnesses said he was laughing and joking with teammates before collapsing.

An autopsy Thursday did not indicate any evidence of trauma or foul play.

“It did yield evidence of cardiac disease, however no exact cause of death will be prescribed pending further microscopic tissue examination and the completion of the usual and routine toxicology examination for the presence of alcohol and drugs,” Nonn said.

District 9 Superintendent Jim Greenwald said he received a message at 6:05 Wednesday evening that the student died after suddenly becoming distressed at the beginning of a voluntary football camp.

“The setting was very safe,” Greenwald said. “It was inside in the air conditioning. The players were not in any type of harm’s way. We don’t believe the death was caused by any type of strenuous activity.”

Greenwald said the players were only doing light stretching when the boy started to show signs of trouble.

Greenwald said coaches reacted quickly when the student began to “labor.” Greenwald said he believes everyone did the best they could do in attempting to save the boy’s life.

“911 was called and the paramedics got there right away,” Greenwald said.

The Illinois High School Association has rules which govern football practices both during the season and in summer camps. The maximum numbers of days a team can practice during the summer is 25 days, with a maximum of 15 days in helmets and shoulder pads only. No more than five hours per day of practice is allowed and full contact is prohibited.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, 1.1 million high school students play football every year.

In 2014, there were 11 football-related fatalities in the United States involving high school players. Five of the deaths came from activities directly associated with games including brain and bone injuries associated with violent collisions. Six of them were not directly related to games, occuring in practices or drills. Three players died of heart issues, one of heat stroke and two from hypernatremia or water intoxication.

A student died Wednesday while participating at a voluntary football camp at Granite City High School. The superintendent said the boy was doing light stretching when he began having trouble. The coroner says the boy was laughing and joking with t

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at or 618-239-2626. Follow him on Twitter: @scottwuerzBND.