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Subject: Brandon Fails, Texas A&M Football Player

he was only 18
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Date Posted: November 26, 2002 12:02:25 EDT

A family history of heart trouble might provide a clue into the sudden death of Brandon Fails. The 18-year-old Texas A&M defensive lineman died after complaining to his roommate of breathing problems.

Football coach R.C. Slocum said that although Fails had no history of heart ailments, his father survived a heart attack at 32 and his grandfather also had heart problems.

"The doctors are speculating that it was a heart condition," Slocum said in the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday. "He had a very faint pulse rate at the dorm."

An autopsy will be performed.

Like all A&M freshmen players, Fails had a complete physical before reporting for football practices Aug. 5. But echocardiograms, which produce an ultrasound picture of the heart, usually are not included. The newspaper, citing an unidentified source familiar with the case, said Fails was not given one.

Fails died Monday morning at St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan after collapsing in his dorm room. He played in four games this season before undergoing knee surgery Oct. 22.

"He was a young talented young man who I thought had a chance to be an outstanding lineman for us," defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt said. "He was a bubbly kid. I don't think he ever ran into anyone who wouldn't remember his smile."

Fails' roommate, freshman tight end Patrick Fleming, told Slocum that Fails collapsed as the two players prepared to leave for breakfast in the dorm cafeteria.

"He was fine. He was at practice yesterday afternoon. He did not practice. He was recuperating from knee surgery early in the year," Slocum said.

Fleming told Slocum he and Fails had been out to dinner with a friend Sunday evening without any problems.

Slocum informed the players' parents, Charles and Valerie Fails, of their son's death.

"Any time you get in a situation like this it dramatically points out what is really important," Slocum said. "You are sitting in a room with a mother and father and telling them their son is dead. Everything else pales by comparison."

Slocum called off Monday's practice but planned to return to workouts Tuesday to continue preparations for Friday's regular-season finale against Texas in Austin.

Slocum said there were no plans to attempt to postpone the game.

"I don't think Brandon or his family would want that," the coach said. "We have an obligation to Brandon and his legacy to practice tomorrow and to be ready to play."

This is the second time in four years that the Texas-Texas A&M game has been marked by tragedy. On Nov. 18, 1999, a 59-foot tower of logs being prepared for the traditional A&M bonfire collapsed and killed 12 people and injured 27 others.

After hearing of Fails' death, Texas officials canceled Monday night's hex rally, an annual pregame ritual performed each year before their game against the archrival Aggies.

"Our hearts go out to the family and to the Texas A&M staff and players," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We understand their pain."

One of Brown's players, Cole Pittman, died in a February 2001 car crash.

Fails was the third player to die during Slocum's 14 seasons as Aggies coach. Terry Nichols was killed in a car accident in 2000. In 1991, James Glenn collapsed before practice and died. An autopsy revealed an enlarged heart.

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