UA football player Zach Hemmila dies in sleep

Posted at 5:33 PM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 01:58:41-04

A football player for the University of Arizona mysteriously died in his sleep this weekend. 

Zach Hemmila was poised to start at center in his senior season. Before playing for the U of A, Hemmila was a standout offensive lineman at Chandler High School where his former coach reacted to the death on Monday before practice.

“Zach was a very quirky kid, always pulling jokes, always smiling,” said Chandler High School Head Coach Shaun Aguano.

The current members of the Chandler H.S. football team never played with Hemmila. But his death was being felt with sadness on campus Monday.

“It was a tough one; a lot of tears,” said Aguano, describing a locker room conversation where he broke the news of Hemmila’s death to the team. “I tried to explain to them that these things happen and you try to live every day to its best.”

Aguano watched Hemmila grow into a team captain and all-state offensive lineman during his four years at Chandler High.

“I was going down with the family to watch a couple of his games this year,” said Aguano. “So it's going to be tough.”

Aguano also helped with Hemmila’s college recruitment and said Hemmila had put in four years of hard work battling for the starting spot at center. His achievements and his sudden loss will put a new emphasis on how Aguano approaches this season.

“It brings everything into perspective that it's not all just football. You could lose your life just that quick so I'm going to use it for motivation that I take care of my kids more than anything.”

The Chandler Wolves play their first game on August 19. Aguano said the team and school will do something to honor Hemmila’s memory.