( Jenna Isaacson, Columbia Daily Tribune )
Date of death: July 12, 2005
Circumstances: O'Neal, 6-foot-3, 220-pound redshirt freshman linebacker, began to struggle about 45 minutes into an outdoor, voluntary offseason workout supervised by Missouri's strength and conditioning coaches. He began to falter during his fifth set of agility drills. According to court records first obtained by the Associated Press, O'Neal complained of blurry vision and at one point fell to his hands and knees. When a 300-pound offensive lineman finished the drill ahead of O'Neal, he was ordered to repeat it three more times. O'Neal also was ordered to jog back into line and court records state he responded, "I'm trying. I'm not weak. I just can't go on." O'Neal eventually slumped to the ground a teammate was chastised when he helped carry O'Neal to the locker room. Court records would later show the football staff violated Missouri policy, failing to immediately call 911 at the first sign of a medical emergency. O'Neal was taken to the hospital about 90 minutes after he collapsed and died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Before his final workout, O'Neal was a promising athlete who redshirted the 2004 season. He shined while playing four sports at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, Mo. He earned Class 5A All-State honors as a running back his senior season, rushing for 1,562 yards and 19 touchdowns.
O'Neal's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Missouri. The Boone County medical examiner initially ruled O'Neal's death was caused by viral meningitis. However, the litigation helped call the medical examiner's autopsy report into question. The finding was later discredited and multiple outside experts determined O'Neal's death was caused complications of sickle cell trait. Nearly four years after the wrongful death lawsuit was filed, Missouri reached a settlement with the O'Neal family. The school and its insurance company agreed to pay O'Neal's parents $2 million and provide another $250,000 toward a scholarship fund established in O'Neal's name. The school's insurance company also agreed to pay about $10,000 in court costs.
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