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Fargo Shanley football player dies hours after game

From left, Fargo Catholic Schools Superintendent Kyle Edgerton, Shanley football coach Steve Laqua and Shanley Principal Sean Safranski talk about sophomore Nick Bailey at a news conference Tuesday at the school. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Nick Bailey's football coaches saw big potential in the 16-year-old lineman.

Bailey spent the summer in the weight room, and his coaches were excited about his progress and potential as a varsity player at Shanley High School, head coach Steve Laqua said, describing Bailey as a "great competitor."

"He really conducted himself with a quiet confidence about him and a tremendous inner drive to reach his potential and to be the best that he could be," Laqua said.

On Tuesday, the sophomore's sudden death stunned his teammates, classmates and the Fargo Catholic Schools Network.

Bailey, the son of Paul and Kara Bailey, was found dead in his room at home early Tuesday, just hours after playing in a junior varsity home game against Grand Forks Central.

His mother told police he had talked about a "big hit" he made on the other team during the game, Fargo police Sgt. Mark Lykken said. It's not known if the hit contributed to Bailey's death, but no foul play is suspected, Lykken said.

An autopsy was planned in Bismarck. Preliminary results are expected within a few days, Lykken said.

The Fargo Catholic Schools Network made counselors available to students and canceled all athletic and academic activities Tuesday out of respect for Bailey, Superintendent Kyle Edgerton said.

"The student body is dealing with it the best that they can at this point," he said.

Edgerton said he spoke with the family Tuesday morning.

"I'm a parent myself. I can't imagine, I just can't imagine, where they're coming from," he said. "If I couldn't put my superintendent face on, I'd probably be crying with them, you know. This could be any one of us. It's very hard."

Fargo police and F-M Ambulance responded at 2:40 a.m. Tuesday to 1731 10th St. S. for a report of a boy not breathing. Bailey was pronounced dead at the scene.

His mother told police he went to bed about 10:30 p.m., Lykken said.

Bailey attended Nativity Elementary and Sullivan Middle School and was a third-generation Shanley student, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Edgerton said. Bailey's sister also graduated from Shanley, and his younger brother is a student in the Catholic Schools Network.

Bailey played offensive and defensive lineman on the Deacons JV squad.

Laqua said he met with the team Tuesday morning.

"They're not grown men, they're boys, and they learn from it and go through the trials just like I think each and every one of us deals with adversity and difficult situations," he said. "And they're supporting each other and they're supportive of their classmates."

Shanley Principal Sean Safranski said Bailey was a popular student with a lot of close classmates.

"You could really tell that his classmates and friends were hurting, because he was someone that really touched them and made their lives better and more enjoyable every day here in school," he said.

A Mass was celebrated Tuesday morning in honor of Bailey, Edgerton said. He extended condolences, prayers and support to Bailey's family on behalf of Bishop Samuel Aquila and the network.

It was the second student death to hit the network in the past year. Eight-year-old Amanda Leininger, a third-grader at Holy Spirit Elementary in north Fargo, died Dec. 10 in a three-vehicle crash on South University Drive.

Shanley's varsity football team is scheduled to play Wahpeton on Friday, but Laqua said he was unsure about the status of the game.