Keion Carpenter (above in 2005 playing for the Atlanta Falcons) has passed away at the age of 39
 

NFL star Keion Carpenter passed away at the age of 39 on Thursday morning.

The former safety for the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons was on vacation with his family in Miami when he collapsed while playing with his son on Wednesday.

Carpenter fell into a coma for 24 hours before being pronounced dead at Jackson South Community Hospital.

'They were running to the car when he slipped, fell, hit his head and slipped into a coma. It was just a freak accident,' Carpenter's cousin Jamila Smith told The Baltimore Sun

'He was always healthy; he went to the doctor, ate well and worked out.'

In the decade since he retired from football, Carpenter had devoted himself to his non-profit organization The Carpenter House, which aims to help low-income families and children realize their academic and economic potential through a number of services.

Carpenter leaves behind his wife Tonia, three daughters, Kymiah, Kennedy, and Kierra, and a son, Kyle.

Family: Carpenter leaves behind his wife Tonia, three daughters, Kymiah, Kennedy, and Kierra, and a son, Kyle (Carpenter above with his four children)
 
Family: Carpenter leaves behind his wife Tonia, three daughters, Kymiah, Kennedy, and Kierra, and a son, Kyle (Carpenter above with his four children)

Carpenter was a standout player at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore before going on to play college football at Virginia Tech.

While at Virginia, he set a school record with six blocked punts during his time on the team, which stands to this day. 

His former coach Frank Beamer, who retired just last year, released a statement following news of Carpenter's death on Thursday.

'Cheryl and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Keion Carpenter,' wrote Beamer.

'Keion was one of the rocks around which we built our program at Virginia Tech in the 1990s. He was a tenacious punt blocker and a relentless player on defense.

'More importantly, he had a heart of gold. His work with The Carpenter House and other charitable organizations to help those in need truly embodied the Virginia Tech spirit.'

Beamer also sent his condolences to Carpenter's family for the 'loss of a great Hokie.' 

The college also remembered Carpenter with a story recounting his crucial interception in a 1996 game against Miami which he ran back for a touchdown. 

'The athletics department offers its condolences to the Carpenter family, many of whom live in the Baltimore area and are mourning his sudden loss - and obviously will do so for quite some time,' read the piece. 

'Rest assured, his extensive Virginia Tech family will miss him just as much.'

Good times: Carpenter with his wife Tonia and Aaron Maybin, a fellow former NFL player who was involved with The Carpenter Foundation

Good times: Carpenter with his wife Tonia and Aaron Maybin, a fellow former NFL player who was involved with The Carpenter Foundation

After graduating college Carpenter signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent, playing three seasons with the team.

He was then traded to the Falcons where he played for four seasons, three of which came after he underwent spinal fusion surgery.

Carpenter and the Falcons were taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the playoffs when a head-on collision caused the safety to experience brief paralysis.

It was later determined that he had fractured two vertebrae, and Carpenter made the decision to undergo the surgery despite the fact that few players had returned to the league after undergoing the procedure.

He became an unrestricted free agent as a result, despite having just completed a season where he had 42 tackles, four interceptions and a touchdown, but the Falcons eventually signed him again to a one-year contract.

Carpenter continued to put up impressive numbers over the next three seasons, with a career-high 43 tackles in his final season with the Falcons before announcing his retirement from the league. 

In his four seasons with the Falcons, and final two years at Virginia Tech, Carpenter played alongside Michael Vick, and in his final Instagram post shared a photo of a pair of the controversial quarterback's Nike Air Zoom sneakers.

'Lil bro came through and blessed big bro with the old school exclusive footwear!! Keep you a pair of fresh 7's in your rotation!' wrote Carpenter on the post, suggesting the sneakers had been a gift.  

Vick was also in Miami last week with his wife Kijafa Frink. 

Baby girl: :Last week Carpenter posted a photo of himself with his oldest daughter shortly after she was born (above) in honor of her 16th birthday
 
Baby girl: :Last week Carpenter posted a photo of himself with his oldest daughter shortly after she was born (above) in honor of her 16th birthday

It was during Carpenter's final NFL season in 2005 that he also started The Carpenter House. 

The non-profit organization 'aims to strengthen and empower families from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing access to resources, activities and structured environments that enable them to reach their highest academic and economic potential.' 

Carpenter chose to base the organization out of his hometown of Baltimore, and spent the past decade splitting his time between his current residence in Atlanta and Maryland so that he could be fully involved with the non-profit. 

Former NFL players Aaron Maybin and Bryant Johnson are also involved in the organization.

Maybin spoke about Carpenter's sudden and tragic death on Thursday, and the amazing things he managed to accomplish with his organization over the past decade.

'It was his vision. it took a lot of foot soldiers to make it happen, but he was the glue that held it all together,' said Maybin. 

'It's a really, really tough day and a terrible reality to come to grips with. He was more than a partner, friend and collaborator - he was a brother in the truest sense of the word.

'Knowing how much of himself he gave to the city, and to the thousands of kids he worked with and helped to groom into men, myself among them. 

'He was one of the first to teach me how to really give back.'

Maybin later added: 'We're going to do all we can to keep his legacy alive.'

Carpenter's body will be flown back to Baltimore later this week for his funeral services.

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Victoria Harper
By Victoria Harper 12/30/2016 06:53:00
 

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