Teen dies after collapsing during conditioning drills at Tampa high school

One moment, he was working out on the football field. The next moment, he was on the ground.

Tampa police are trying to figure out what caused a high school football player to collapse and die Tuesday at Middleton High School.

Friends and family of 14-year-old Hezekiah Walters are devastated over his sudden death. They say he was kind, completely devoted to his studies, and had a heart for community service.

It was about 4 p.m., 30 minutes into conditioning drills with his teammates, when Walters collapsed. Coaches called 911 and he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Authorities said Hezekiah was an incoming freshman at the school.

Police say, so far, they know he was lifting weights and running sprints during drills, but that coaches made sure players took water breaks, as mandated by the Florida High School Athletic Association’s hydration policy. 

That includes five-minute rest and hydration breaks for every 30 minutes of activity, with helmets removed, a cooling zone out of direct sunlight, and access to water any time it's requested.

The Walters family released a statement saying, "Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah. We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace. As we grieve our loved one, we ask for your prayers and that you respect our privacy during this time."

Ross Anderson, founder of the non-profit Men of Vision, shared photos of Walters with FOX 13 News. Anderson has known his since he was in the 5th grade.

 He said Walters recently won awards for logging the most community service hours for a middle school student and for academic achievement.

He said Walters was on the honor roll or high honor roll every grading period, volunteered to feed those in need, and was a respectable, well-mannered young man.

Hillsborough County Public Schools is directing every high school coach to go back over safety procedures pertaining to athletic activities and review student records to ensure they are all medically cleared to participate. High school principals have been asked to verify the steps have been taken before any conditioning or sports activity is resumed.

A Hillsborough County schools spokesperson said the district was "heartbroken" by the news.

"We are devastated by the death of one of our students," Tanya Arja wrote. "This student was an amazing young man who was loved by his friends, teachers and staff at school. He was taking part in conditioning and weight lifting with other athletes and coaches when he collapsed. The coaches immediately called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital. We were heartbroken to hear the news that he later passed away."