Eraste Autin was the gift of Lafayette. The son of
David and Joanie Autin, he simply wanted to make a
difference. He was, after all, on the fast track to do
just that. Eraste was an exceptional student, had
earned All-American honors as a bruising fullback at
St. Thomas More High School, and had set his sights
squarely on following in his fathers footsteps -- a
His promising course was forever altered on July 19,
2001. Autin had just completed the tenth workout with
his University of Florida freshman teammates and was
making his way toward the locker room when he
collapsed as a result of heat stroke.
Florida fans, players, and friends will have the
opportunity to honor Eraste Autin this Saturday night,
as his family has accepted an invitation to
participate in Senior Day with the University of
Florida for homecoming. The Autin family is making the
trip to honor Eraste, in what would have been his
Today the black patch simply states "A-Ross." Many of
those proudly wearing the patch on their jerseys never
had the opportunity to say good job to Eraste Autin.
Sadly, offensive lineman Lance Butler said recently
that while he thinks of his friend and former teammate
often, only a handful of his Florida teammates even
know the man memorialized on the patch.
He is honored in other ways as well. Florida officials
quickly placed a permanent plaque in the Gators
Proving Grounds honoring Eraste, which sits just
inside the gate.
The fans have also stepped forward. A few of months
after Autin's death, the family began the Eraste
Thomas Autin Memorial Scholarship Fund with monies
sent by Florida fans. The first recipient of the
$3,000 scholarship award was Brian Etier, a member of
the football team from St. Thomas More. The
scholarship is given annually. There is also a $1,000
scholarship given annually to a ninth grader.
And while all of these things are important in terms
of respecting the memory of a fine young man who had a
future as bright as one might hope, I for one, have to
believe that Eraste Autin would find greater solace in
the changes made to keep others healthy, and free from
suffering his fate.
On that tragic day, the players lifted weights earlier
in the afternoon and had just finished running sprints
for conditioning at the practice facility. The
recorded temperature in Gainesville was 89 degrees.
Reports and eyewitness accounts at the time of the
incident stated that as many as four trainers and
three members of the Strength and Conditioning staff
were on hand. Water was plentiful, and those
interviewed saw the 6-2, 250 Autin, as well as
others, drinking the water.
Autin's body temperature was measured by physicians at
Shands at 108 degrees. He passed away in a coma six
days later on July 25 suffering from a multi-system
organ failure. Autin's family has a wrongful death
lawsuit pending against Shands Hospital and the
"Eraste was a wonderful young man and mainly our
freshman players got to know him real well, bond
together, and have that chemistry amongst the
freshmen," said Coach Steve Spurrier at that time.
"He'll be missed by all who got to know him. But
obviously when a tragedy occurs, there is a time to
grieve, which hopefully we did it the right way and
handled it as well as we could have.
"You keep his memory alive, which we certainly are,
and we talk about Eraste every other day or so with
the freshmen and try to draw a little bit from him
Since Autin's passing, hydration has been more than a
mere buzzword. It's on demand by those overseeing the
University of Florida program, and Autin is mentioned
when teams begin conditioning from coaches at the
youth league level to the National Football League
throughout The Sunshine State and beyond.
His mother, Joanie, was asked by the NCAA if she had a
message for college presidents. She asked them to go
overboard in taking extraordinary precautions to
prevent such things from happening again. She wouldn't
have had the opportunity to present such a message
without this tragedy.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Rob Glass and his
staff have revised the way Florida conducts
conditioning sessions. Players work out significantly
earlier in the summer taking advantage of lower
temperatures. They also now receive one-on-one
sessions with nutritionists, who among other important
aspects drive home the necessity of hydration.
Eraste Autin never received his doctoral degree. But,
there is no question that through his loss, he has
caused scores of youth league, junior high, high
school, and college coaches, athletes, and parents to
take extra measures against potential heat stroke. In
his passing, Eraste Autins' gift is the many lives
that he changed and possibly, helped save.