Freshman Johnathan Gilmore, a backup tight end at Winston-Salem State who is from the Fayetteville area, died in a car wreck on Saturday afternoon.
According to his mother, Tina Ward, the accident happened around 4 p.m. in Fayetteville.
Gilmore, who is 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, played sparingly this past season, appearing mostly on special teams.
Ward said that her son loved it at WSSU and was happy in college.
“He was home to see his high school (South View) play in a playoff game on Friday night,” Ward said by phone on Sunday afternoon.
Ward said that South View’s coach, Rodney Brewington, had already been to their house on Sunday afternoon.
“Coach came by and talked to us and said that Johnathan was right on the sidelines for Friday’s game,” Ward said. “I know when he came home he was so excited that they won.”
Ward said Brewington indicated there would be a memorial service of some kind at South View on Saturday.
Fayetteville Police said details of the wreck won’t be released until later this week.
Coach Kienus Boulware of the Rams said he was scrambling around on Sunday afternoon trying to find out details.
“He wasn’t just a good kid, he was a great kid,” Boulware said after hearing the news that Gilmore had died. “He had just texted me last week about setting up a meeting because he wanted to know what he could do this off-season to become better.”
This is the second WSSU player to die this year. Najee Baker, a defensive end, died after being shot at a party at Wake Forest in January.
Fighting back tears, Boulware said: “We are in the process of reaching out to this family but we are all devastated by this news.”
Gilmore ended up seeing the most action of the season in the Rams’ last game, which was in Fayetteville on Nov. 3 against Fayetteville State. In the 51-21 blowout win Boulware had four captains come out for the coin toss and Gilmore was one of them.
A lot of Gilmore’s family and friends were at the Fayetteville State game even though Gilmore wasn’t expected to play much.
“We definitely wanted to support him and Winston-Salem State in that game,” Ward said. “He loved it there in school and mentioned a lot about how he loved the family atmosphere.”
According to Robert Massey, the secondary and special teams coach, he and Natrone Means, the offensive coordinator, recruited Gilmore to be the tight end of the future.
“His brother (Greg) was a star at LSU and he was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a while,” Massey said about Gilmore’s older brother and former South View star. “But Johnathan was special and we were grooming him to do big things for us. It’s just devastating to hear because as a coaching staff and our team just had to go through something like this with Najee.”
Johnathan Gilmore was drawing recruiting interest from N.C. State, Wake Forest and Clemson when he was a junior at South View, which is in Hope Mills.
However, in Gilmore’s senior season WSSU recruited him hard and he ended up signing with the Rams.
“We were very lucky to even get this kid because he was a diamond in the rough,” Massey said.
Massey said that Gilmore didn’t get much playing time at tight end but was in on most of the special teams’ work. The Rams finished 5-4 this past season.
“He would do anything you asked of him,” Massey said. “This is a tough one right here because this was a terrific kid. So our hearts and prayers go out to his family.”