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SaberCats coach: Kirton died of natural causes

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
While no news emerged from the investigation into the death of former Jackson High School football star Johnie Kirton, his most recent coach said Wednesday that the 26-year old appears to have died of natural causes.
"As far as we understand, it was natural causes," San Jose SaberCats coach Darren Arbet told The Mercury News of San Jose on Wednesday. "That's what they're telling us. That's all we know right now."
The Mercury News, quoting a source at the Santa Clara police department, reported Tuesday that no foul play is believed to be involved in the death.
Kirton, who also played at the University of Washington and was in his fourth season playing professional indoor football, was found late Monday night in the hotel room where he was staying. An unidentified teammate reportedly found the body after a concerned friend asked him to check on Kirton.
The former star running back from Jackson High was traded from the Arena Football League's Arizona Rattlers to San Jose on May 9, and he scored five touchdowns in two games with the SaberCats.
San Jose's AFL team called off a Tuesday practice but was back in action Wednesday.
After the session, Arbet spoke to local reporters about the effect of the death on his team.
"It was a shock," he told The Mercury News. "You get this pit in the bottom of your stomach. It's just a tragedy, but especially for his family and friends. ... You're never prepared for anything like this. This is as tough as it gets."
Kirton was the Gatorade 4A state player of the year after his senior season at Jackson High in 2003. He spent the next five seasons playing running back, tight end and defensive line at UW, where his weight went from 250 pounds to more than 290. He was listed at 290 on the SaberCats' roster.
Kirton's professional career started in Spokane, where he helped the Shock win an Arena Football2 title in 2004. He played for Chicago, Arizona and San Jose of the AFL.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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