North Pontotoc High School is mourning the death of a Vikings football player on Monday night after the first practice of the preseason.
Principal Brian Sutton confirmed the death of senior lineman Ty Rayford in a statement Tuesday morning.
“The North Pontotoc family is saddened by the passing of one of our students, Ty Rayford. Ty would have been a senior at North Pontotoc High School this year. His passing was sudden and unexpected. Ty was big in stature, but humble and kind in his heart for all those he came in contact with. Ty will be greatly missed by his senior classmates, fellow students, teachers, and family.
“We pray for guidance in the dark days ahead and for grace to carry us on. Our sincere prayers are with his family, friends, and the entire North Pontotoc family as they mourn the loss of this outstanding young man.”
A public prayer vigil was held Tuesday night planned for 8 p.m. Tuesdayat the high school football field.
According to Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green, Rayford was found unresponsive at home after the practice. She said he had a history of elevated blood pressure.
He was pronounced dead at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
After news of the death first began circulating in social media early Tuesday, a wide number of Twitter accounts associated with area football teams posted expressions of sympathy for his family and the North Pontotoc community.
Rayford was “a gentle giant,” according to Webb Lewis, president of SES Mississippi. Lewis got to know Rayford at his Fortius Project football camp at Northeast Mississippi CC in April.
At that time, Lewis said Rayford measured in at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds.
“He was very soft-spoken, but when the whistle blew nobody could move him,” Lewis said Tuesday.
At the camp, Rayford ran a 5.8 in the 40-yard dash. “For a guy that size, that’s really darn good,” Lewis said.