PORTLAND, Ore. -- Eastern Oregon University officials are trying to learn why an apparently normal play during a spring football scrimmage led to the death of a freshman player from a head injury.
They also are watching to make sure that teammates and coaches are getting emotional support as they grieve the loss of 21-year-old Dylan Steigers, a former high school star from Montana who leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter.
"One of the key factors is to keep contact with our students, rather than turn everything off and send them back to their dorm rooms," said university spokesman Tim Seydel. "They're watching out for each other. It's a real time of concern."
School officials have begun an investigation, interviewing players, coaches and others on the sidelines to explain how Steigers hit his head hard enough to jostle his brain, causing blood to pool between the outer layers of his brain and injuring delicate brain tissue.
A couple hundred spectators were at Community Stadium on Saturday for the Mountaineers' annual Blue-Gold Scrimmage. Steigers' family members -- parents Tom and Cindy, of Missoula, partner Liz Apostol and their 2-year-old daughter, London -- were there to cheer him on.
He had transferred to Eastern Oregon this spring from the University of Montana and was listed as a 5-foot-10, 180-pound wide receiver on the roster. But Steigers had played some defense at Missoula Sentinel High School -- he graduated in 2006 -- and was playing linebacker for the Mountaineers as he got back into shape for the fall.
On the second-to-last play, Steigers was with a group of defenders who flew at the ball carrier, Seydel said. There was nothing unusual about the hit.
But Steigers walked to the sideline.
"I think I got hit in the head," he told coach Tim Camp, according to Seydel.
Camp told the player to see the athletic trainer but Steigers vomited and his condition suddenly turned into an emergency.
As the scrimmage continued, the athletic trainer called 911. Steigers was taken to Grande Ronde Hospital and later flown to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, school officials said.
Steigers died Sunday afternoon.
"It's hard to describe the emotions we all feel about losing Dylan," Eastern Oregon president Bob Davies said in a statement. "I sat with Dylan's family during the scrimmage, had a chance to connect with them. Dylan is an exceptional young man who loved to play football, and he had a bright future ahead of him. This is a loss we will feel for a very long time."