PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State football player who starred at Arizona Western College from 2017-18 was found dead in his apartment by an officer who responded to a call for help involving “breathing problems,’’ Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said Wednesday.
Jenkins said there were no signs of foul play and that the Whitman County coroner will determine the cause of death for 22-year-old Bryce Beekman, the senior defensive back who was found Tuesday afternoon.
Coroner Annie Pillers said in an email that the case remains an ongoing investigation and that it may take up to three months to determine the cause of death.
“We are in shock with the news of Bryce’s passing,” Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement. “Bryce was a tremendous young man, great teammate and will be missed by all. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to the Beekman family and his many friends.”
Beekman started all 13 games last season for Washington State after transferring from Arizona Western. He finished fifth on the team with 60 tackles and one interception. He was expected to be part of an experienced Washington State secondary going into this season.
First-year Washington State coach Nick Rolovich informed the team of Beekman’s passing on Tuesday night.
“My relationship with Bryce was still in its early stages, but I knew him to be a wonderful young man,” Rolovich said. “He was always positive and well respected amongst his teammates. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”
Teammates took to social media to express their sadness and condolences. Washington State’s program is barely two years removed from the suicide of quarterback Tyler Hilinski in January 2018.
“Cherish your loved ones. Every second matters,” wrote offensive lineman Liam Ryan.
As a redshirt freshman at AWC out of Baton Rouge, La., in 2017, Beekman recorded seven interceptions, was named All-NJCAA Honorable Mention and helped the Matadors reach the national championship game. He was again one of the team’s leaders in 2018, when he was named All-Western States Football League First Team for the second year in a row, in what ended up being AWC’s final season of existence.
Reached Wednesday by the Yuma Sun, former AWC coach Tom Minnick fought back tears while discussing Beekman.
“He was the kind of kid you loved because he did everything right,” said Minnick, who’s now the coach at Garden City Community College. “He was a kid you’d want 100 of. He always brought a smile to your face.”
Based on the social media reaction from a countless number of Beekman’s former AWC teammates and classmates Wednesday, he was clearly a beloved figure on campus his two years in Yuma.
“He did have that effect on everybody,” Minnick said.
Minnick said his wife Tiffany had also built a special bond with Beekman.
“My wife is hurting pretty bad now because that was one of her favorites,” he said. “She saw him every day in study hall, had that relationship with him. It hasn’t been a good day.”
Minnick said Beekman had “a great football future” ahead of him.
“He was smart, always in the right place at the right time,” Minnick said.
Minnick specifically recalled an Oct. 21, 2017, game against Pima in which Beekman preserved a 28-23 AWC victory by picking off a last-minute pass to the end zone. It was Beekman’s third interception of the game.
“It was the kind of situation where the nickel (back) fell down and he saw it happen and stepped in and picked the ball off and that was it,” Minnick said. “He made a ton of plays like that, but that one sticks out because if we lost that game we wouldn’t have made the national championship.”