May 13, 2011 9:16:00 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas, a junior college transfer and onetime Tennessee starter, was found dead on the second floor balcony of a home in Fernandina Beach, Fla., after attending a party, according to police.
Fernandina police chief James T. Hurley released a statement describing what authorities know about Douglas''s final hours.
Witnesses said the 21-year-old Douglas was taking a taxi to Jacksonville after dinner with friends when two women apparently approached the cab and invited him to a party. He arrived between 11 and 11:30 p.m. Douglas was seen at the residence as late as 2 a.m. before a male resident and others discovered him "apparently dead" on the balcony Thursday morning, Hurley said.
Douglas was pronounced dead at the scene. The medical examiner''s office is investigating the cause of death.
No police report was immediately available, according to a dispatcher who answered the phone at the department.
The residence is listed on Zillow.com as a 2,760-square-foot single-family house.
Douglas spent last season as Arizona Western Community College''s starting left tackle and transferred to play for the Crimson Tide in January. According to his Twitter feed, Douglas had been in the Jacksonville, Fla., area this week.
Douglas had tweeted at 11:36 p.m. CDT Wednesday asking "Anybody still up right now?!?"
"It is a tragedy anytime you lose someone close to you and even more so when it is a member of your family," football coach Nick Saban said in a statement. "Aaron was a part of our family and always will be a part of our family at Alabama. He was an outstanding young man and we were excited about what he had accomplished as a player and a person in the short time he was with us.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents, David and Karla, who are two of the best people you will ever meet and the love they had for their son was something very special."
Douglas was vying to replace left tackle James Carpenter, a first-round NFL draft pick, during the spring. The university was already coping with a devastating tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27. Snapper Carson Tinker was injured, and his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was killed.
Alabama lineman Barrett Jones, who is also from Tennessee, had known Douglas since the recruiting process in high school.
"Aaron Douglas was a great teammate and great guy," Jones said in a statement. "He was a really hard worker that was having a positive impact on our football team."
Douglas was charged with DUI in December while home in Maryville over holiday break and pleaded guilty to the charges in March, serving a 48-hour jail sentence.
Douglas initially signed with Tennessee under coach Phillip Fulmer in 2008 ranked as the No. 5 tight end in the nation by Rivals.com after four years at Maryville High School, a perennially dominant football program located just 15 miles away from the Volunteers'' Knoxville campus.
He took a redshirt his freshman season and moved to offensive tackle in Lane Kiffin''s lone season with the Vols, starting 10 games that year. Soon after Kiffin left and Tennessee hired Derek Dooley, Douglas asked for a release from his scholarship.
Douglas cited personal problems and depression from the pressure of playing close to home and for his parents'' alma mater. His father, David Douglas, was an offensive lineman for the Vols, and his mother, Karla Horton Douglas, was a Lady Volunteers basketball player.
"No one can understand the pain that a family must endure after the loss of a child," Dooley said. "My prayers go out to David and Karla and everyone who was close to Aaron."
Dooley had granted Douglas'' release on condition he did not play football for a program within an eight-hour radius of Knoxville for the first season after his departure.
Douglas joined some former Maryville teammates at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., before he and teammate Jesse Williams signed with Alabama.
"It''s a tragedy and all my prayers go out to him and his family," Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick said. "He was a great kid. He came in during the summer and helped our young kids out and was a leader on the field and off the field and did everything we asked him to do.
"He will be truly missed."
Minnick said Douglas would often stop by the football offices to say hello and talk about the coaches'' plans for the day. He said Douglas'' parents came to games and remarked on their son''s maturation.
"They praised us and said, ''Coach, he wasn''t like this when he was down there (in Tennessee). He''s grown up. He''s going to school and doing what he''s supposed to do,'' " Minnick said.
2. MUW joins United States Collegiate Athletic Association COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Local academy baseball players earn all-state honors HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. White, teammates look for bass fishing success LOCAL SPORTS