PARK CITY — Park City High assistant football coach and former University of Utah cornerback coach Aaron Alford died of an apparent heart attack Monday morning.
“Aaron was a great coach. He was very loved around the community and around the Park City High School football team,” Park City senior captain Konnor Andersen said. “We’re definitely going to miss him. I know us seniors and that freshman class — he’d been working with them for a couple years in little league. We’ve all grown very attached to him. He’ll be missed.”
Alford, who joined the Park City coaching staff in the offseason and was appointed as the new athletic director, suffered the heart attack while attending to business at the district office during practice hours according to Andersen.
“We were doing our normal deal, going through team offense, and we heard the sirens not knowing it was anything except a random siren,” Andersen said. “It ended up being one of our coaches.”
Alford played defensive back for Colorado State in the early 1990s. When shoulder surgery ended his playing career during his junior season, he directed his attention toward coaching.
He had coaching stints at Colorado State, Kent State, Southern Utah, Western Illinois, Wyoming and Akron before joining the Ute staff in 2007. Alford coached current NFL cornerbacks Sean Smith, Brice McCain and RJ Stanford during his four years with the Utes.
"We have an unusual circumstance we have to deal with. I don't think there's a handbook for this," Park City coach Mike Shepherd said. "We had a team meeting, and we cancelled practice this afternoon even though I know Aaron would have wanted us to practice, but I just wanted to make sure (the players) understand that life is more important than football."
The Park City team captains informed the team of his passing at 2 p.m. Monday afternoon. Members of the girls soccer and volleyball teams also attended to offer condolences.
"First and foremost he was an advocate for the kids," Shepherd said. "He was so full of energy. He had an abundance of football knowledge. Players loved him; coaches loved him. It was just a shock that it happened, and it was so devastating to our kids because they loved him as a coach so much. Life is a tough thing to deal with sometimes."
Alford's son, Eli, is a current member of the Park City program.
"(It) makes it even harder to deal with because he's a great kid," Shepherd said. "We've got him to take care of as well. ...There are a lot of devastated teenagers right now. We're going to have to rally around them and see if we can work our way through this. "
Shepherd noted that counselors are available at the school, and that practice will be adjusted accordingly to how the players respond.
Alford, 39, leaves behind his wife and three children. He also served as an executive director at New Beginnings Behavioral Treatment Agency, which focuses on youths struggling with home life.
Many of Alford's former associates and students expressed their sadness today on social media. Here are some of their tweets.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company