High School Sports

North Pontotoc player dies after team’s first football practice

Ty Rayford
Ty Rayford

North Pontotoc High School lost a member of its family Monday night after the Vikings’ first football practice of the preseason, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported online Tuesday morning.

Principal Brian Sutton confirmed the death of senior lineman Ty Rayford in a statement Tuesday morning:

“The North Pontotoc family is saddened by the passing of one of our students, Ty Rayford. Ty would have been a senior at North Pontotoc High School this year. His passing was sudden and unexpected. Ty was big in stature, but humble and kind in his heart for all those he came in contact with. Ty will be greatly missed by his senior classmates, fellow students, teachers, and family.

“We pray for guidance in the dark days ahead and for grace to carry us on. Our sincere prayers are with his family, friends, and the entire North Pontotoc family as they mourn the loss of this outstanding young man.”

A public prayer vigil is planned for 8 p.m. Tuesday at the high school football field.

Since news of the death first began circulating early Tuesday, a number of Twitter accounts associated with area high school football teams have posted expressions of sympathy for the North Pontotoc community.

Rayford was “a gentle giant,” according to Webb Lewis, president of SES Mississippi. Lewis got to know Rayford at his Fortius Project football camp at Northeast Mississippi Community College in April.

At that time, Lewis said Rayford measured in at 6-foot-6, 360 pounds.

“He was very soft-spoken, but when the whistle blew nobody could move him,” Lewis said Tuesday.

At the camp, Rayford ran a 5.8 in the 40-yard dash. “For a guy that size, that’s really darn good,” Lewis said.

Read more North Mississippi sports news at the DJournal.com.