ORONO, Maine — When Charles Kyeremeh Jr. arrived last summer to begin offseason workouts with the University of Maine football team, it was readily apparent he wasn’t a typical first-year player.
“He wasn’t like most freshmen out of high school,” said UMaine graduate student, teammate and roommate Roosevelt Boone. “He was an extrovert. He was easy to talk to, (he) fit right in as if he knew us.”
Boone couldn’t help but chuckle as he remembered Kyeremeh, 20, who died Sunday afternoon as the result of a motorcycle accident on Route 125 near Donaldson, Pa., according to the Lebanon Daily News.
Kyeremeh, a UMaine sophomore and a member of the Black Bear football team, lived in North Cornwall Township, Pa.
“It’s shocking,” said Boone, who explained Kyeremeh had recently been living in his apartment. It’s devastating because he was a young kid.”
Pennsylvania state police trooper Jeffrey A. Hummel told the Pottsville Republican-Herald the accident occurred when Kyeremeh, traveling alone, passed a group of 10 other motorcyclists who had pulled off the road and stopped near Good Spring Creek.
Michael Scheib, the assistant fire chief for Donaldson Fire Co., told the newspaper Kyeremeh — whom the other riders didn’t know — rode past the group, then turned around and came back at a high rate of speed.
Kyeremeh lost control of his motorcycle and collided with some of the parked bikes. He was reportedly thrown from his motorcycle and crashed into a sign and post.
One person in the group also was injured.
UMaine head football coach Jack Cosgrove said Kyeremeh had left Orono for a special occasion.
“He went home for the weekend because it was his mom’s (Bertha Kyeremeh) birthday,” Cosgrove said. “They were having a surprise party for her.”
Charles Kyeremeh Jr. was scheduled to fly back to Maine on Monday to resume workouts.
“He was an important part of our team, and we are all devastated by this tragedy,” Cosgrove said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and friends during this difficult time.”
Some UMaine players were advised of the tragedy Sunday night but Cosgrove said many team members gathered Monday to discuss Kyeremeh’s death.
“You really need to be sensitive across the board to everybody,” Cosgrove said. “Some know how to deal with it. Some don’t.”
Cosgrove related it is the first time in his 18-plus-year tenure as UMaine’s head coach that an active team member had died suddenly. Assistant coach Jeff Cole passed away in 2004 after a multiyear battle with cancer.
Cosgrove asked New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell for some advice on dealing with Kyeremeh’s death. In March, Wildcats player Todd Walker was shot and killed by a would-be robber in Boulder, Colo.
“Sean helped me with the things that he learned from that experience and kind of handed it off to me,” Cosgrove said. “You want to do as much as you can, in the right way, for the young men that you’re responsible for.”
Kyeremeh, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back, redshirted during his freshman season at UMaine. Cosgrove said Kyeremeh suffered a leg injury running track during the spring of his senior year (2010) at Cedar Crest High High School in Lebanon, Pa., then re-aggravated it during a football all-star game last summer.
Kyeremeh was back on the field with the Black Bears in April.
“He had rehabbed himself back to full-go status and was on our spring roster and did a nice job,” Cosgrove said. “He worked real hard at learning the system and got an opportunity to grow and we were very excited about him and his future here.”
Kyeremeh immigrated with his family to the United States from Ghana, in West Africa. He was as an all-section and all-county football standout at Cedar Crest. He also competed in track and field and played basketball and was an honor roll student.
The Lebanon Daily News reported a group of 20-30 Cedar Crest football players gathered Sunday night at the home of coach Tom Waranavage, who remembered Kyeremeh fondly.
“He was a great young man with a big heart,” Waranavage told the LDN. “One of the things I remember about him the most was his smile. He always had a great big smile.”
Boone, who on Monday began directing a youth wellness and nutrition youth camp at UMaine, set up a small memorial at the registration table at UMaine’s Lengyel Gymnasium that included flowers.
“He was a really genuine and good kid,” Boone said of Kyeremeh. “He had a good heart.”
Information about services for Kyeremeh were not available Monday evening.
“We’re going to do everything we can on our end to honor and respect Charles’ life and the wishes of his family,” said Cosgrove, who described a Sunday conversation with Bertha Kyeremeh as gut-wrenching.
Counseling services are available to members of the UMaine community affected by Kyeremeh’s death. The phone number for the UMaine Counseling Center is (207) 581-1392; the Employee Assistance Program is reachable at (207) 581-4014.