AUSTIN (KXAN) — A college football program canceled the final four games of its season following the death of a Cedar Park native earlier in October.
Northwestern State University, an FCS program in Natchitoches, Louisiana, called off its remaining games and head coach Brad Laird resigned after junior Ronnie Caldwell, 21, died Oct. 12. Caldwell went to Cedar Park High School, then attended Tyler Junior College before transferring to NSU.
A press release by the university Thursday said “the mental health and wellbeing of its student-athletes” was the primary reason the school canceled the rest of the season.
“While our instinct was to return to the field of play following his death, we’ve since learned that the hurt on our team was too deep,” said Marcus Jones, NSU president. “Now it is in the best interest of our players, coaches, and staff to pause and to take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”
Laird, who had been the team’s head coach for five full seasons, said Caldwell’s death “was like losing a son.”
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“Due to the loss of Ronnie and the emotional burden it has caused me, I don’t feel I can give my all to these players or this program,” Laird said.
Caldwell had been injured all season but traveled with the team as an extra coach, helping the defensive backs. NSU said Caldwell’s death is being investigated by local police. The Associated Press reported police found Caldwell with multiple gunshot wounds after responding to a call for a shooting at an apartment complex around 1 a.m., Oct. 12. No arrests have been made in the case, the AP reported.
Cedar Park’s football program held a moment for silence for Caldwell before last week’s 17-13 win over Glenn and are wearing decals on their helmets in memory of him.
NSU canceled its Oct. 14 game against Nicholls to mourn Caldwell’s death but played Southeastern Louisiana on Oct. 19, losing 37-20, before deciding to cancel the rest of the season.