Skip to main content

Winona State player's death likely caused by unknown heart condition

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A Winona State University football player who collapsed and died during an on-campus workout Monday night likely died of a previously undetected heart condition.

Shawn Afryl, 22, was practicing with a few teammates in a voluntary workout session at Maxwell Field and collapsed. Chris Tate, his high school football coach who is acting as the family's spokesperson, said the family was told by a coroner that he died of cardiac arrest related to an enlarged heart, according to reports.

“He had a medical condition that no one knew about. ... He had an enlarged heart, but it was undetected," Tate told the Winona Daily News.

Afryl, who is from Skokie, Illinois, was recruited by various colleges out of high school and ended up playing two seasons at the University of Illinois. He graduated with a degree in political science in 2013, and went on to enroll at Winona State to pursue a teaching degree and continue playing football, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He wanted to become a teacher and a high school coach, the Star Tribune reports. Afryl arrived in Winona about a month ago and had already started taking classes, reports say.

Remembering Afryl

In the short time he was at Winona, his coaches say he made a big impact.

“In the time Shawn was on campus, he showed a lot of people what a great fit he was going to be not only for our football program but for our campus as well,” WSU football coach Tom Sawyer said in a statement. “He did an excellent job as a counselor during our team camps, and his leadership qualities and maturity were a valuable asset to our successful camps. He will be sorely missed.”

“He was someone our guys were starting to really look up to,” WSU assistant football coach Cameron Keller told the Winona Daily News. “He had a big impact in the short time he was here, just in kind of how to lead your life.”

Shawn Afryl's mother, Sue Afryl, called her son a "hero" and said he "was a leader with kindness of soul," according to Chicago's FOX 32.

“People need to know that he was my sunshine and everybody's sunshine,” his mother said through tears, the news station says.

“I know it's cliché to say, but he was my other half. Everything I wasn't, he was,” said Shawn Afryl's girlfriend Hannah Malic told FOX 32.

This embed is invalid

Former teammates and friends took to social media to post their condolences. The University of Illinois posted some of the tweets on its website.

Here is a sampling:

Friends and family have posted a request for donations to help defray funeral costs on the website As of Thursday it had raised almost $33,000, eclipsing the $20,000 goal.

Some of the donations were for $56, which was Afryn's football number at Illinois.

“Shawn was just an unreal all-around person,” Tate said, according to the Star Tribune. “His goal was to teach and to help kids. Our focus right now is getting the foundation started in Shawn’s name.”

Winona State says it expects to have details about the foundation finalized by this week, including how to make a contribution, the newspaper says.

Sue Afryl told the Chicago Tribune she hopes to set up a fund called the Shawn Patrick Afryl Shoe Fund to help young athletes in need purchase sports equipment.

Next Up


Minnesota switches to weekly COVID updates

The weekly updates will be provided on Thursdays.

Screen Shot 2022-06-29 at 12.22.08 PM

Man shot inside Oakdale movie theater expected to survive

The 23-year-old victim underwent surgery and is recovering at the hospital.


Minnesota confirms second case of monkeypox virus

More cases are expected in the coming days and weeks, the health department says.


Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, June 29

One of the newly reported deaths was a person aged 15-19 from Yellow Medicine County.

Screen Shot 2022-06-29 at 10.19.37 AM

Drone drops bag of candy near kids fishing

A black SUV quickly left the area afterwards.

FLickr - AL Franken 2016 - Lorie Shaull

Al Franken to bring comedy tour to Minneapolis

Acme Comedy is hosting the former senator in late August.


Alabama replaces Toby Keith as headliner at MN music festival

The Lakefront Music Festival is set to take place in Prior Lake on July 8-9.

16362 County Rd 81, Maple Grove, Minnesota - October 2021 (4)

2-year-old who died in Maple Grove crash identified

The crash happened last Thursday on County Road 81 in Maple Grove.

Image from iOS

Shooting inside Oakdale movie theater: Suspect on the run

A 23-year-old was shot while inside theater 17 around 10 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz and Scott Jensen.

Walz, Jensen clash over 'extreme' abortion views

The two clashed over the topic on Tuesday, following the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.