RICHMOND — He spent less than two months on Eastern Kentucky University's campus, but the impression left by freshman football player Joey Kraemer was apparent Monday as his coaches and teammates struggled to come to grips with the news of his death in a weekend car accident.
EKU Coach Dean Hood stopped to compose himself while speaking of Kraemer's family. Colonels quarterback Bennie Coney let out a series of long sighs while describing the feeling among players who had just lost one of their own.
"It's hard, man. It's hard to soak in," Coney said. "I really don't know what to tell you. The guys are down. We just lost a brother. It hurts."
Kraemer, 19, was killed early Sunday morning in a one-car accident in Madison County. According to the Kentucky State Police, he was driving west on Tates Creek Road when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree.
The vehicle was found by a passerby shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday, and Kraemer was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hood said EKU recruited Kraemer out of Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio, though he ultimately accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Texas-El Paso and spent the 2014 season as a redshirt player in that program.
"He was a guy we fell in love with right at the beginning — not only his play, but as a person," he said.
Hood said the EKU coaching staff was "ecstatic" when they got a phone call last spring informing them Kraemer was looking to transfer and wanted to be closer to home. He finished some coursework in Texas during the summer and arrived in Richmond early last month.
The EKU coach was informed of Kraemer's death Sunday afternoon and called a team meeting later in the day to break the news to his players.
"Even though he was only here from the first part of August, a lot of our guys were very, very close with him," Hood said. "A lot of them were visibly upset right away.
"It was a shock."
A lingering shoulder injury kept Kraemer off the field all season, and Hood said they had recently decided to proceed with surgery. EKU's quarterback said Kraemer didn't let the setbacks get him down.
"He was a good dude," Coney said. "He's one of those guys that came with a positive mindset every day. I think he would want us to just keep working hard and play through him."
UK hosts Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night, and a team spokesman said Monday that Kraemer will be honored during the playing of My Old Kentucky Home before the game.