Former Rutgers Football Player Ryan Keeler Dies, 20

Former Rutgers football player Ryan Keeler, who transferred to UNLV last year, died Monday in Las Vegas, both schools  announced. 

Ryan Keeler
Ryan Keeler Photo Credit: ryan.keeler Instagram/UNLV Athletics

Keeler, 20, was a member of the Scarlet Knights’ 2021 recruiting class. 

A cause of death has not been reported.

In a statement released Monday, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said, "We are devastated to hear of Ryan’s passing. . . .We send our love and prayers to Ryan’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

The Rutgers football program reacted to the news with a post on Twitter that read: “We love you, Ryan.”

Keeler was a defensive lineman from Chicago, Illinois, who had just completed his redshirt freshman season. The graduate of Nazareth Academy transferred to UNLV from Rutgers University and went on to play in seven games, totaling eight tackles. 

First-year UNLV football head coach Barry Odom, said, "While I had the honor of knowing Ryan for only a couple of months, he already stood out to our coaching staff as an incredible person, student and teammate. Our condolences and prayers go out to Ryan's family as we grieve along with them over this tremendous loss."

A highly recruited player who garnered dozens of scholarship offers out of high school, Keeler recorded his first collegiate quarterback sack against Air Force on Oct. 15, 2022.

He performed just as well off the field, school officials said. The Academic All-Mountain West honoree had a 3.8-grade point average in pre-business. 

"Words are hard to come by this evening as we grieve the sudden and tragic loss of UNLV student-athlete Ryan Keeler," said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. "My sincere condolences are with Ryan's family, friends, loved ones, and teammates during this very difficult time."

Friends, fans, opponents and former teammates shared their sadness on social media:

KJ Howe wrote, "OMG This is shocking, such a nice kid. . ."

And Ross Douglas wrote: This is terrible news. Ryan always had a smile on his face and lived day to day with great energy & passion. Prayers to the Keeler family 🙏🏾·"

In his statement, Rutgers' Coach Schiano added:  “From getting to know him as a recruit, to actually getting to coach him, what stood out most was his passion. . . .His passion for his teammates and his passion for the game of football. 

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