49ers Lineman Thomas Herrion Dies After Preaseason Game

Thomas Herrion, an offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers, collapsed after last night’s preseason game with the Denver Broncos and died.

Niners’ Herrion collapses in locker room, dies (ESPN)

San Francisco offensive lineman Thomas Herrion collapsed in the locker room and died Sunday morning, shortly after the 49ers played the Denver Broncos in a preseason game. He was 23.

Herrion, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard, was on the field for San Francisco’s 14-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a touchdown with 2 seconds left. Players had finished listening to coach Mike Nolan address them in a postgame meeting when Herrion collapsed. Medics administered CPR on him and took him to an ambulance that rushed him to a nearby hospital. About three hours later, 49ers spokesman Aaron Salkin confirmed that Herrion had been pronounced dead. The cause of death was not immediately known.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that television footage showed Herrion walking off the field after the 49ers’ touchdown drive, with nothing apparently wrong. According to the paper, Herrion’s face gave no sign of distress in the footage.

“This is a colossal tragedy for the 49ers and the entire NFL community,” Salkin said. “We still do not know all the details. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Herrion family.”

The death comes a little more than four years after offensive lineman Korey Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings died of heatstroke during a training camp practice on a day during which the heat index soared to 110. Since Stringer’s death, NFL teams have increased their efforts to teach players about hydration and how to manage the heat. They have been experimenting with sensors to measure players’ core body temperatures, although those by themselves wouldn’t be able to prevent a heat-related death. Temperatures were in the mid-60s with 50 percent humidity Saturday night in Denver, although experts say heatstroke can occur even in cool conditions.

After the game, Nolan said he had no comments about San Francisco’s 26-21 loss to the Broncos. “There are more important things on our mind than the game,” he said. “Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with Thomas Herrion.” Shortly after that statement, the Niners got dressed and boarded buses that took them to the Denver airport for their flight back to California. Salkin said coaches notified players of the tragedy at the airport. “We didn’t see anything happen,” Niners defensive lineman Marques Douglas said. “I sat by my locker and prayed for him.”

Herrion, a first-year player with the 49ers, played college ball at Utah and spent part of last season on the San Francisco and Dallas practice squads. He also played this season with the Hamburg Sea Dogs of NFL Europe. The native of Fort Worth, Texas, started every game at left guard in the 2003 season for Utah and was a team captain, when current 49ers quarterback Alex Smith played his sophomore season at quarterback.

49er rookie dies after collapsing (SF Chronicle)

First-year 49ers lineman Thomas Herrion is dead after collapsing in the locker room after Saturday night’s game against the Broncos at INVESCO Field.

After walking off the field at the end of the game in seemingly good condition, he collapsed in the locker room a little before 11 p.m. local time (10 p.m. PDT). Medical personnel treated him immediately, pumping his chest with their hands as he was removed on a gurney. He was driven away in an ambulance. At about 1:15 a.m. local time (12:15 PDT), reporters covering the 49ers who were waiting at the stadium for news were informed by the team that Herrion had died. No cause of death was given.

Head coach Mike Nolan informed Herrion’s teammates at the airport, where they were preparing to depart for San Francisco.

The 49ers released this statement: “Thomas Herrion, a first-year guard on the 49ers, collapsed in the locker room following the game. He was immediately treated by team physicians, the medical staff and paramedics. He was then transported to St. Anthony’s Central. We received word later that he passed away. This is a colossal tragedy for the 49ers and the entire NFL community. We still do not know all of the details. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Herrion family.”


Herrion, 23, was 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. He went to college at Kilgore Junior College in Texas, his home state, and then attended Utah. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by Dallas in May 2004. He joined the 49ers’ practice squad in December and has been with the team since. He signed a one-year contract in January.

Reports on Herrion from his time at Utah give the picture of a gregarious teammate, one who was persuaded to attend the school by the family atmosphere fostered by the coaches’ wives.


Update: Mickey Spagnola discusses the reaction from Herrion’s former teammates in Dallas.

The Cowboys signed the affable Herrion on May 18 [2004] following a workout during a mini-camp and released him on the final cut, Sept. 5. The Cowboys re-signed the former Utah player from Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 14, and he spent two weeks on the Cowboys practice squad before getting released and then was eventually signed to the San Francisco practice squad.

“That’s a sad thing,” said Parcells, who took a liking to Herrion when he tried hard early in camp to play through a sprained ankle. “He was one of those underdogs kind of kids.”

While Herrion didn’t spend much time with the Cowboys, he obviously made an impression on quite a few of his teammates, who were shocked when they awoke Sunday morning to find out he had passed away. “Real sad, real shocked . . . I just don’t know, I just don’t know how to explain it,” said second-year receiver Patrick Crayton, who made fast friends with Herrion during camp last year. “I just trying to call his mother and offer my sympathy.”

The Cowboys offensive linemen appeared particularly upset with the tragedy, the second to occur in professional football this year and the first football-related death in the NFL since Minnesota’s Korey Stringer died of heat exhaustion, Aug. 1, 2001. Arena Football League player Al Lucas of the Los Angeles Avengers died of a spinal cord injury in a game this year.

“I woke up this morning and turned on the TV, and the first thing I saw on SportsCenter was about Thomas,” Cowboys center Andre Gurode said. “The guy said his name, and I’m like, ‘It can’t be the Thomas I know.’ It’s a big loss. “He touched a lot of guys and a lot of the guys on the team still know Thomas and stayed in touch with him. He was a real good guy. It was unexpected because I never expect to see a thing like that happen.”

One certainly doesn’t.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hold off on the tragic label. Wait for the autopsy.

    Corey Stringer died three years ago because he was an (expletive deleted) idiot combining diet pills and dehydration as a weight loss scheme, despite being a phys ed major in college and knowing the routine could kill him.

    I won’t bash Herrion just yet, though, but I am reserving judgement until it’s announced whether this was indeed a random tragedy or the guy brought it upon himself.

  2. Krystal says:

    This is for L Simon you better not post one thing bad about Thomas Herrion He was a well loved man. If any one is a idiot it is you

  3. wowgold says:

    Yeah, he’s a good guy and I’d rather see it as a tragedy.