July 12--J.T. (John Thomas) Rembert, a member of the 1998 Oakland Mills football state championship team, died suddenly at age 29 Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C., while vacationing with family.
The preliminary cause of death was determined to be pulmonary embolism, Horry County deputy coroner Tony Hendrick said in a statement on Tuesday.
Rembert was vacationing with his wife, Shannon, who is pregnant with their daughter, and 2-year-old son Keegan, along with other family and friends at the time of his death.
Click here to view a gallery of photos from Rembert's football career at Marshall, from the Huntington Herald Dispatch.
A candlelight vigil in memory of Rembert is scheduled for tonight (Friday) at 8:30 at the Oakland Mills High School football field.
"It's so sad to hear that he won't get to see his daughter born, but I know his son loved him very much," said Robert Roche, a friend and former Oakland Mills teammate. "Everyone loved him because he was such a good-hearted man. He just wanted to be around everyone."
Rembert gained attention as a player during his sophomore season at Oakland Mills in 1998.
He wasn't relied on heavily until the playoffs, when he rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-13 state semifinal win over Cambridge-South Dorchester, eventually helping the Scorpions win their first and only football state championship. The team was coached by Ken Hovet, who died in 2010 from kidney cancer.
"He actually played a pretty big role in that run," said Thomas Browne, the leading receiver as a senior on the 1998 team and the current Oakland Mills football coach. "We were kind of beat up and J.T. stepped up unbelievably for us as a 10th-grader ... without him we wouldn't have done what we did that year."
Rembert, who was also a talented lacrosse player, was even better in his junior and senior seasons.
"We probably didn't know it as kids at the time, but our coaches -- Ken Hovet and Marcus Lewis -- knew he was going to be something pretty darn special," Browne said.
Browne remembers coming home from college in 2000 to see Oakland Mills' homecoming game against Howard, and seeing how much Rembert had developed as a player.
"He literally jumped over a kid running up the sideline. It wasn't like the kid was diving at his ankles, J.T. literally jumped over him. I've never seen something like that at any level," Browne said. "He was a special kid ... a great football player and truly one of the nicest people I've ever met ... it's just unbelievably sad."
Rembert was named the Howard County offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2000 after rushing for almost 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns, passing for more than 800 yards and making 73 tackles.
That year, Oakland Mills senior linebacker Andrew Deming -- who had played football with Rembert since they were 8 -- was named defensive Player of the Year. The longtime teammates stayed friends after college, serving in each other's wedding and calling and text messaging each other regularly. Deming was with Rembert in Myrtle Beach on the night of his death.
"It's just one of those things you have to deal with," said Deming, who is now an assistant football coach at Dundalk High. "You just feel blessed that you got to spend as much time with him as you did. He was one of the best people I've ever known. He had this special way of bringing people together ... the camaraderie that was built and the brotherhood (at Oakland Mills) is almost unbreakable."
Deming played college football for Salisbury (he was a four-time All-Atlantic Central Football Conference selection) under coach Doug Fleetwood, who also coached the Cambridge team that Oakland Mills defeated en route to the state championship in 1998.
"(Fleetwood) even remembered J.T. in that game," said Deming, who also played lacrosse with Rembert at Oakland Mills. "He was one of those athletes that could pick up any sport and just run with it ... he was good at bowling."
While Deming went off to Salisbury, Rembert headed to Marshall on a full athletic scholarship.
Rembert was a productive four-year linebacker for the Thundering Herd, finishing his career with 175 tackles and serving as a team captain his junior and senior seasons.
In 2002, as a sophomore, Rembert recorded 72 tackles, including two sacks, intercepted two passes and returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown.
Rembert lived with his family in Huntington, W.Va., and worked as an account manager with the Western and Southern Life Insurance agency in Charleston. He "works with Rich Sports (Management) clients to obtain life insurance, injury insurance and other health and employment benefits to ensure that they are protected and can focus on training for the NFL," according to his bio on the Rich Sports Management website.
For the last three years, Rembert has run a golf tournament in West Virginia to benefit a scholarship fund in the name of Johnathan Goddard, a former Marshall teammate who died in a motorcycle accident in 2008.
Roche said that details of Rembert's memorial service had not yet been determined.
(c)2012 the Howard County Times (Columbia, Md.)
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