by: Dave Faherty Updated:
HICKORY, N.C. - A student drowned Monday afternoon at a lake at Geitner-Rotary Park in Hickory.
The drowning victim, Vince Njoku, was a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Head football coach Ian Shields, like many of the student athletes he coaches, is in disbelief that Njoku is gone.
Shields rushed to the lake last night after learning of the drowning.
"We'll put our arms around each other. This is a family. Lenoir-Rhyne is truly a family atmosphere and we'll get through this as a family and that is what Vince would want,” Shields said.
Teammates like Marcus Davis and Joseph Ray are getting ready to head home for the summer. Tuesday was the last day of exams before the break but the focus here is on the freshman running back and his family.
"It hurts real bad but we got to stay strong for his family and keep working for Vince," Davis said.
"I always saw him with a smile on his face. He just literally lit up a room every time I’d see him around," Ray said.
Channel 9 learned from police that the teenager was with a half dozen other students at Geitner Park when he jumped feet first into the lake after telling a classmate he could swim.
Divers said they found him not far from the shore in about 13 feet of water.
Police do not believe alcohol or drugs played a role in his death, calling it a tragic accident.
Students said they gathered at Njoku's dorm last night to remember the classmate who had such a bright future.
"We're just doing a lot of praying for Vince and his family and us so we could see God's purpose in a of this,” student athlete Isaiah Whitaker said.