Body of UH football player recovered from ocean off Sandy Beach

By Jill Kuramoto
Published On: Nov 30 2013 10:00:00 PM HST

Students and faculty are mourning the loss of UH football player Willis Wilson. He died in the waters off Sandy Beach earlier today.

HONOLULU -

A Honolulu Fire Department rescue squad found the body of a University of Hawaii football player off Sandy Beach park about 8 a.m. Saturday.

Friends who were him at Sandy Beach identified the player as Jack Willis Wilson III. The University of Hawaii Athletics Department confirmed that Wilson had died.

University of Hawaii football head coach Norm Chow said in a statement, "We are saddened by the news of Willis' passing."

"He was a very fun-loving young man, who was well-liked by his teammates. He was an exciting football player who came to us from the University of Washington and whom we felt would help us at running back," Chow said.

The fire department was notified about 4:30 a.m. that a man was reported missing.

Surf was about 2-to-4 feet with blustery south-southeasterly winds that could create dangerous currents.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said Wilson was with a group of friends splashing around in the shore break when his friends noticed him missing. The friends searched for him for about 10 minutes before calling for help.

Wilson is listed on the UH football roster as a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior running back from Lakewood, Washington. He was a 2010 graduate of Lakes High School in Lakewood, according to his biography on the UH football web site.

"He overcame some obstacles in his life and he was the perfect lesson to our team to never quit. Our thoughts and prayers are with Willis' family during this difficult time, Chow said.

Wilson was born in Pearl City. His father Jack Wilson Jr. also played football for the University of Hawaii in the 1980s, according to UH.

Warrior football players honored Wilson in their 49-42 win over Army Saturday night in various ways. Player helmets bore an emblem with Wilson's initials "WW", while coaches pinned black ribbons on their shirts.

A touching moment of silence before the game was observed in Wilson's honor, and throughout the game players threw hand signals for the letter "W" towards the sky.

Players celebrated their only bittersweet win of the season following the game but held heavy hearts over the loss.

"We dedicated this game to him," said UH Quarterback Sean Schroeder. "It means a lot to be able to come out on top and dedicate this win to him."

"We were telling each other we were so thankful, you know what I mean. To put together a good, solid Thanksgiving win like that," said UH Wide Receiver Chris Gant. "I'm thankful to God that I met the guy."

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