Canada

College football player dead at age 25 after Ottawa’s game in Toronto

Defensive lineman Francis Perron died Saturday, shortly after his team’s 11-10 loss to the University of Toronto Blues. No cause of death has been released

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Life is so fragile; sometimes it’s inexplicably taken away — with no warning. Fifth year Ottawa Gee-Gees defensive lineman Francis Perron died Saturday, shortly after his team’s 11-10 loss to the University of Toronto Blues. No cause of death has been released. He had turned 25 earlier this month. Too young. Too soon.

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The death is stunning. Devastating to a grieving family, devastating to so many friends and to a brotherhood of teammates, who somehow, some way have to look beyond a tragedy that can never be properly explained. There will be sorrow, there will be tears. Perron was more than just a football player. Within the framework of a college football team, he was such a bright light, a shining star with a zest for life and a drive to succeed — the kind of guy you never have enough of.

“Our hearts are broken,” said Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “In losing Francis, we’ve lost an outstanding person, teammate, player and veteran leader that made us better in every way possible. He was someone that loved and was loved, by everyone that is a part of our program. We are pulling together as a family and giving everyone the best support possible as we navigate this very difficult situation. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this unimaginable time.”

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The 6-foot-1, 275-pound Perron was not only a really good football player, he was a terrific mechanical engineering student — a two-time U Sports academic all-Canadian. As a football player, in 2019, he had 14 tackles (11 solo, six assisted) — 2.5 for a loss), a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Panda Game. In his 2017 rookie season, he played in every regular-season and post-season game as a true freshman. He finished with 15.5 total tackles (eight solo, 15 assisted), a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Before becoming a Gee-Gee, he attended Cégep de Sherbrooke, playing from 2014-16. In his final season, he led the RSEQ Division 2 conference with 12 sacks and was named Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year and a conference all-star.

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“We are devastated by the tragic news of Francis’ passing,” said Sue Hylland, director of varsity athletics at uOttawa. “Francis exemplified everything it means to be a Gee-Gees student-athlete and representative of our sports community at uOttawa. We have ensured that our football program, as well as all Gee-Gees athletes and staff, have support resources available to them throughout this difficult time.

“We are very grateful for the therapy staff, first responders, nurses, doctors, and everyone on-site at the University of Toronto that did absolutely everything they could to help Francis. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with Francis’ loved ones, teammates and everyone he touched.”

The Gee-Gees were also struck hard by tragedy in September of 2017 when 24-year-old defensive lineman Loic Kayembe died in his sleep. The 6-foot-1, 255-pound Kayembe was in his third year with the team and was a student in the Faculty of Social Science.

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