KNOXVILLE — Aaron Douglas, a University of Alabama and former University of Tennessee offensive lineman, was found dead near Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday.
A source within the UT football program confirmed the news to the Times Free Press early Thursday afternoon, and Alabama confirmed the 21-year-old’s death a couple of hours later.
Douglas was the son of two former UT athletes. His father was a former Rhea County High School standout.
According to a release from police chief James Hurley, the Fernandina Beach Police Department was called to a house on First Avenue that hosted a party Wednesday night. Witnesses said Douglas arrived at the house between 11 and 11:30 p.m. and was seen there as late as 2 a.m. The residents of the house awoke Thursday morning and found him on the second-floor balcony.
According to WJXT in Jacksonville, witnesses told police that drinking, marijuana and other drugs were at the party, and police said Douglas’ death apparently was the result of a drug overdose.
Police are investigating the possibility of illegal alcohol consumption by some at the party, though Douglas was of legal drinking age. The cause of death won’t be known until a full medical examination is complete.
“It is a tragedy any time you lose someone close to you and even more so when it is a member of your family,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said in a release. “Aaron was 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.
“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. 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.”
A former star at Maryville High School, the 6-foot-7, 275-pound Douglas earned Freshman All-American honors at UT in 2009, when he started 10 games at left tackle for the Volunteers. His father was a starter on the offensive line at UT in the 1980s, and his mother was a three-year starter for the Lady Vols basketball team and helped coach Pat Summitt win her first national title in 1987.
“No one can understand the pain that a family must endure after the loss of a child,” UT coach Derek Dooley said in a statement. “My prayers go out to David and Karla and everyone who was close to Aaron.”
After former UT coach Lane Kiffin left for Southern Cal last January, Douglas did not participate in Dooley’s first spring practice and transferred to Arizona Western College in Yuma. Following a season there, Douglas signed with Alabama in December and went through the Tide’s spring drills this spring.
Douglas admitted to a battle with depression after leaving UT, and Dooley required him to transfer at least eight hours from Knoxville. Douglas was arrested in December 2010 under DUI charges, pleaded guilty to those charges in March and spent 48 hours in jail.
“Just heard the horrible news of tragic incident,” Kiffin wrote on his Twitter account. “He was a great kid [with] a huge heart. My thoughts [and] prayers [are with] David [and] Karla.”
As a tight end at Maryville, Douglas won the Class 4A Mr. Football Lineman award twice and won all 60 of his games and four consecutive state titles under coach George Quarles. He committed to former UT coach Philip Fulmer before his junior season and signed with the Vols in 2008 as one of the state’s top prospects by most recruiting services.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...