Starting senior free safety Bryce Beekman, a defensive mainstay for Washington State, died on Tuesday in Pullman, Washington, in yet another tragedy for an overtaxed college football program.
Just over four months ago, Beekman played against the Washington Huskies in the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium. He wore No. 26 that day and was a starter in the secondary, finishing up his first season at WSU after transferring from Arizona Western College.
No cause of death has been issued by the medical examiner. Beekman, 22, was found deceased at a local apartment at 5:54 p.m. amid reports that he struggled with "breathing problems," according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, which cited Pullman police records and officials.
Beekman is the second high-profile WSU player to pass away in 26 months, following quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide in Pullman.
"We are in shock with the news of Bryce's passing," WSU athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement. "Bryce was a tremendous young man and a great teammate."
Beekman had just returned from his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he spent spring break visiting with his brother. The younger Reece Beekman is a highly regarded basketball point guard who has committed to Virginia and former WSU basketball coach Tony Bennett.
Beekman grew up in Wisconsin before his family moved to the South and he spent his senior year at Scotlandville High School, where he was an all-state football player and led the basketball team into the state title game.
He played junior-college ball for Arizona Western in Yuma, Arizona, where he intercepted 10 passes over two seasons.
Beekman started all 13 games for the Cougars, finished fifth on the team in tackles with 60 and collected an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. He had 10-tackle games against Houston and UCLA. He had one tackle against the Huskies in a 31-13 loss in the rivalry game.
With a coaching change to Nick Rolovich to Mike Leach, Beekman was expected to play a major role in the WSU defense in the upcoming season.
"My relationship with Bryce was just in the early stages, but I knew him to be a wonderful young man," Rolovich said. "He was alway positive."