‘Absolute loss for words’: Longhorns linebacker Jake Ehlinger found dead off campus

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — University of Texas student and Longhorns linebacker Jake Ehlinger, 20, was found dead off campus, according to his friends who spoke to KXAN.

The Austin Police Department said it received a call Thursday at 12:18 p.m. reporting a death on the 1200 block of West 22nd Street. It said the circumstances of the death were not suspicious and identified the person as Jacob McAdams Ehlinger.

Jake Ehlinger is the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was recently drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. In a video posted to the Longhorns’ Twitter account May 1, Jake Ehlinger can be seen in orange celebrating the moment his brother got the call from the Colts.

A reporter for the Athletic reports Sam Ehlinger has left the Colts’ rookie camp in Indianapolis and has returned to Austin.

Jake Ehlinger was a preferred walk-on for the Longhorns in 2019. He was most recently listed as a sophomore on the team’s roster. He was not listed on any injury reports this spring. Before that, he played for Westlake High School and helped the team head to back-to-back 6A State semifinal appearances.

Jake and Sam Ehlinger’s father died in 2013 after having a heart attack while swimming in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco.

Texas defenders Jake Ehlinger, left, and B.J. Foster, right, tackle Kayvontay Dixon (16) during the first half of the Texas Orange and White Spring Scrimmage football game in Austin, Texas, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Texas defenders Jake Ehlinger, left, and B.J. Foster, right, tackle Kayvontay Dixon (16) during the first half of the Texas Orange and White Spring Scrimmage football game in Austin, Texas, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Ehlinger’s mother, Jennifer, told KXAN there was “not a kinder, more gentle giant ever.”

Westlake High School football coach Todd Dodge, a close friend to the family, said he spent the afternoon with them, particularly to comfort Ehlinger’s younger sister. He said Sam Ehlinger called him on the phone 15 minutes after receiving the news.

“He sounded stone cold. Like he couldn’t believe it. He was completely composed, but I know that his mind was spinning,” Dodge said. “We’re all just at an absolute loss for words. There’s nothing that we can say. Our prayers that our Lord will wrap his beautiful arms around this family, because it’s just so tragic.”

Dodge said Sam Ehlinger has left Indianapolis to be with his family. However, funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.

UT athletics shows support for the Ehlinger family

UT Athletics Director Chris Del Conte released a statement about Jake’s passing Thursday night, saying in part, “Our hearts are truly broken and we are just devastated today to learn of the passing of our Longhorn family member Jake Ehlinger. Jake was an amazing young man from an extraordinary family with such a bright future ahead of him. It’s just such a tragedy that we are all really struggling with. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones and friends, especially the Ehlinger family and our entire football program. Jake’s family — Sam, Jena and Morgen — are such vital parts of our Longhorn family, and we will be here to support them in any and every way we can during this very difficult time.”

He went on to say their focus is providing support to Jake’s family, the football team, coaches and staff and those impacted in the athletics department. Grief counseling and mental health resources will be available.

Del Conte ended his statement asking everyone to respect the family’s privacy.

Head Coach Steve Sarkisian called Jake a “tremendous person” and “everything you could ask for in a student-athlete” in a statement he released at the same time.

“We have an extremely heavy heart with the news of the passing of our beloved teammate, friend and Longhorn family member Jake Ehlinger. Words cannot express the depth of our sadness and the huge void we are feeling, but above all else, our hearts pour out to Sam, Jena, Morgen and the entire Ehlinger family,” Sarkisian’s statement read, in part. “Being a Longhorn meant everything to him, and he truly embodied all that it means to be one. In the short time we were able to get to know him, he always was a joy to be around and gave everything he had in workouts, meetings, practice and in life.”

He said now is the time to “open our hearts” and come together to support not only each other, but especially the Ehlinger family.

Outside of the West Campus home, UT football players declined to comment, saying they wanted to leave that up to the family. A few shared some thoughtful words about him, saying “he loved to make people laugh.”

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