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Ohio State Players Say No Warning Signs Preceded Teammate's Death

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Over a long holiday weekend that focused a lot on highs and lows on the football field, there was some tragic news off of it. An Ohio State football player who disappeared just days before a game against the team's biggest rival was found dead from an apparent suicide. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow has the story.

ANDY CHOW, BYLINE: Friends say nothing seemed out of the ordinary last Tuesday when they last saw Kosta Karageorge, a 22-year-old senior who joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on in August. But early the next morning, Karageorge said he was going for a walk and never returned. His disappearance sparked a search involving teammates, police, students and other Columbus residents. His picture was even projected on the Jumbotron during the Buckeyes's game against archrival Michigan on Saturday. It wasn't until the next day when a woman and her son found Karageorge's body inside a dumpster close to his apartment. Columbus police say alongside his body was a handgun, and it appears Karageorge took his own life - news that stuns teammates like Taylor Decker.

TAYLOR DECKER: You just kind of wake up and, you know, hope it was all, like, a nightmare. Just for somebody that, you know, you've been with every day, you know, for months and months, just - it's sad.

CHOW: Decker says Karageorge was a positive, well-liked person with a passion for competition. He and junior linebacker Joshua Perry say they never noticed any warning signs.

JOSHUA PERRY: He was a funny guy. He was really lighthearted. He was goofy. He always had a smile on his face. So, you know, to hear news like that, it was really tragic.

CHOW: Before joining the team, Karageorge was a heavyweight wrestler at OSU. While he never played a down on Saturdays, his coaches say he worked hard, helping the starters prepare for games. Susan Karageorge says her son sent a text message shortly before he went missing saying that concussions had messed up his head. The AP reports that his sister Sophia says he suffered a concussion as recently as last month. Ohio State's football coach Urban Meyer won't say whether Karageorge was being treated for concussions, but he does commend team doctors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URBAN MEYER: This is the best group of medical people I've ever been around. And I don't know that - and the way they handle their business and the attention to detail.

CHOW: The death is weighing on players here as they prepare for the Big 10 championship game on Saturday. But Decker says they're a close-knit team that has perspective.

DECKER: You know, we're trying to play football, and this is so much more than that. Football is just a game. You know, people blow it out of proportion, make it a lot bigger than it is. You know, we just have to go back to each other, lean on each other for strength.

CHOW: Ohio State senior Colleen Miracle says Karageorge's death could serve as a wakeup call for students here.

COLLEEN MIRACLE: Be aware of your feelings and those around you. And - even people you might not talk to that much and just try to utilize the resources on campus.

CHOW: Police are still investigating Karageorge's death before officially ruling it a suicide. Because of the text that mentioned concussions, county coroner Anahi Ortiz says Karageorge's brain will be examined by a neuropathologist to search for any signs of traumatic brain injury. For NPR News, I'm Andy Chow in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.