Ryan Keeler, former Nazareth football player, dies at age 20

“We are devastated to have lost a member of our Rebel family,” UNLV football head coach Barry Odom said in a statement.

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Former Nazareth Academy player Ryan Keeler, who played college football for UNLV last season, has died at age 20.

Former Nazareth Academy player Ryan Keeler, who played college football for UNLV last season, has died at age 20.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Former Nazareth football star Ryan Keeler died on Monday in Las Vegas, Nev. He was 20 years old.

The 2021 Nazareth graduate was a redshirt freshman at UNLV. Authorities are investigating after he was found unresponsive in bed in a studio apartment.

The Clark County coroner said Tuesday that a cause and manner of Keeler’s death was pending. Medical examiner blood toxicology test results can take several weeks. A Las Vegas police spokesman says officers were initially summoned to a medical call.

“He was the eternal optimist,” Nazareth football coach Tim Racki said. “He was that high-energy kid. A beast on the field, off the field he had a warm smile. He’s a real gentle giant.”

Racki first got to know Ryan through coaching his older brother Matthew. He helped Keeler navigate the transfer portal when he left Rutgers for UNLV this past summer.

“The kids that are juniors and seniors, [Keeler] would help them out,” Racki said. “We’ll have a workout after school. We’ll address it and lean on each other.”

UNLV head coach Barry Odom called the 6-6, 275-pound defensive lineman a standout person, student and teammate.

“We are devastated to have lost a member of our Rebel family,” Odom said in a statement. “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.”

Keeler played in seven games this past season and he contributed eight tackles and a sack. He made the academic All-Mountain West team and had a 3.80 GPA.

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

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