LAS VEGAS — College and Chicago-area prep football fans are mourning the death of a former Nazareth Academy defensive lineman this week.
Ryan Keeler, a Chicago native who played for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has died at the age of 20, according to a release from the university’s athletic department on Monday.
No cause of death was given.
“We are devastated to have lost a member of our Rebel family,” said UNLV head coach Barry Odom in a statement released by the university. “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 is from Chicago and played his high school football at Nazareth Academy in La Grange Park. The defensive lineman was a three-star recruit and helped the Roadrunners to a Class 7A state championship in 2018 as a sophomore and a runner-up finish in 2019 as a junior.
Late Monday night, Nazareth Academy football posted a tribute to Keeler on Twitter.
“There are no words. Our hearts are heavy. God bless the Keeler family. We love you Ryan,” said the program in tribute to the player on social media.
After graduation from Nazareth Academy in 2021, Keeler was at Rutgers for his first college season but didn’t see any action in a game. He transferred to UNLV in 2022 to play for then head coach Marcus Arroyo, making eight tackles including a sack against Fresno State on November 11.
Keeler had found success off the field, posting a 3.80 GPA in pre-business on his way to being named an Academic All-Mountain West honoree.
“The UNLV family is in mourning today over the sudden loss of one of our own,” said UNLV Director of Athletics Erick Harper. “Our hearts go out to all of Ryan’s family and friends along with his Rebel teammates.”