Former running back Ontario Sneed died Tuesday of heart complications

Patrick Siller/Senior Photographer Former Illinois runningback Ontario Sneed weaves through a pair of Ball State defenders on November 19, 2008 at Kelly Shorts Stadium. CMU lost to Ball State 31-24.

Former Central Michigan running back Ontario Sneed, 25, died of heart complications Tuesday at John Warner Hospital in Clinton, Ill. according to a source close to Sneed’s family.

“We are stunned,” said Athletics Director Dave Heeke in a press release. “Ontario was an outstanding student-athlete just a few short years ago and was always a proud Chippewa. Many people around the CMU family still have fresh memories of his time at Central. We are deeply saddened by the startling news and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends.”

Sneed was a fan favorite during his years at CMU, with shouts of “Sneeeed” erupting from the crowd when he completed a big play or scored a touchdown.

Not only did he excite the fans, but former teammate Brian Brunner said Sneed played a key role in energizing his team.

“Something about him, people just wanted to be around him and you felt good when you were around him,” the former CMU quarterback said. “He was a connecting force on that team and he had the ability to transcend between different groups on the team. We were successful because of the closeness between our offense and defense, our linemen and backs, and Ontario might have been the best at bringing those groups together.”

Green Bay Packers linebacker Frank Zombo played alongside Sneed for four years. Zombo said he felt like he had the air knocked out of him when he received the call Tuesday evening from Sneed’s high school football coach.

“This is the first time I have had a friend my age who was so close to me pass away,” Zombo said. “He was close with my family, so obviously it struck home.”

Sneed and Zombo were roommates in Deerfield Apartments for three years along with former Chippewas Dan LeFevour, Bryan Anderson and Sean Price.

“He came in with my class when CMU was ranked 120th in the country and when we left we were top-25 and he started that off,” Zombo said. “He was part of the group that brought CMU back to what it was.”

Zombo described his former teammate as an all-around good person and a quiet guy who knew a lot of people and had a lot of people care about him.

“It was a shame he had to go so soon and he’ll be extremely missed,” he said.

The Decatur, Ill. native was a four year starter who finished his career as a Chippewa ranked ninth all-time in rushing yards (2,863) and eighth in rushing touchdowns (26).

He played a large role in CMU winning back-to-back Mid-American Conference championships in 2006 and 2007, and caught 157 passes for 1,357 yards throughout his career, ranking him sixth in CMU history in receptions.

“Obviously he was one heck of an athlete and one of the bigger names around campus,” Zombo said. “And everybody is going to remember the (Sneed Creed) in the back of the end zone.”

Following his collegiate career, Sneed signed a contract with the Colorado Ice of the Indoor Football League in 2011.

An autopsy is scheduled for later today and funeral arrangements for Sneed have not been released at this time.

Oakland Raiders center Colin Miller said his heart sank when he signed onto Facebook and saw the news about his former teammate.

“It really puts into perspective what’s important in life,” he said. “If you’re having a rough day and you’re tired, or the worlds after you that day, you realize it could all be taken from you in an instant. Live everyday because you’re only guaranteed the moment you have right now and you have to make the most of it.”

Miller added that his heart and prayers go out to the Sneed family and CMU community.

“It’s a tough swallow,” he said, “But it’s life and we’re going to do our best to remember him and celebrate his life.”

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