Georgetown College tries to move on after player's death

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GEORGETOWN, Ky. (AP) — Georgetown College coach Bill Cronin knows each of his players will grieve Colson Machlitt in his own way.

The Tigers' challenge Tuesday was finding normalcy a day after the sophomore defensive lineman died from injuries suffered in a fall over the weekend at a campus fraternity house.

Georgetown police continue to investigate the death of Machlitt, 18, who fell and hit his head after jumping down a flight of stairs early Sunday at the Lambda Chi Alpha house. He died Monday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in Lexington. The Fayette County coroner said Machlitt suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Police suspect alcohol was involved, but Assistant Chief Robert Swanigan said Tuesday that the department "wants to make sure we do a thorough investigation."

The fraternity did not immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Cronin and Georgetown players, meanwhile, struggled to get back to football.

The longtime Tigers coach was subdued in a phone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. Cronin remembered Machlitt, also known as Johnnie, as a "first-class kid" who was projected to have a bigger role this season for the NAIA Tigers, who are ranked No. 18 in the preseason coaches' poll.

"We'll miss him a lot," Cronin said. "He was one of those guys that kind of brought the team together. He had personality, one of those guys you really liked to have for brotherhood and unity, those types of things."

Machlitt, from Villa Hills, graduated in 2015 from Dixie Heights High School and helped the Colonels reach the 2014 Class 6A championship game. They lost 47-17 to Louisville Trinity.

After playing on the scout team and in other roles as a Georgetown College freshman, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Machlitt had worked hard in the offseason to bulk up and was expected to get more playing time, Cronin said.

"He was a little undersized when he came in as a freshman, but we knew that it was going to take a year or two," Cronin said. "But I knew he was a good solid kid and a team player, able to fill a lot of different roles.

"He would've seen some playing time. ... The guys really liked him, and he was a hard worker in the classroom. He would've been a tremendous player for us down the road."

Kenton County School District spokeswoman Jess Dykes says she met Machlitt during Dixie Heights' playoff run and was impressed by his respectful manner, which made him a leader on that squad.

"Our hearts are heavy with the tragic loss of this Dixie Colonel," she said by phone. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

A helmet patch is among the options being considered to honor Machlitt, whose funeral Mass is scheduled for Monday at St. Joseph Church in Crescent Springs. Visitation is Sunday at Dixie Heights High School. There was no immediate word of Georgetown College's plans to remember Machlitt.

As ministers and grief counselors meet with the Tigers and other students, Cronin hopes staying on routine will help the healing process. Team photos were taken Monday and practice was held Tuesday, the first of several steps toward paying tribute to Machlitt.

"Kids are resilient," Cronin said. "Given time and a little bit of counseling, I think they can come back."

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