Lawmakers seek compensation for deceased FSU player’s family

Published: February 2, 2016 5:46 PM EST
Updated: February 2, 2016 5:51 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Two Florida legislators and a group of NFL players say this is the year the Legislature should finally compensate the family of Florida State University freshman football player Devaughn Darling, who died after overexertion during a workout in 2001.

Darling’s identical twin brother Devard Darling, who also played at FSU and later played professionally, appeared at a news conference in the Capitol Tuesday with two legislators sponsoring a bill that seeks $1.8 million.

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and state Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said similar bills have been filed unsuccessfully in every legislative session for 12 years.

“I hope this will finally end this annual pilgrimage to beseech the Legislature for justice,” Joyner said of the bill, SB 16.

FSU agreed to settle the case after a lawsuit alleging negligence by trainers in Darling’s death. However, state law prohibits the university from paying more than $200,000 without legislative authorization.

Darling, who had sickle-cell trait, died after doing indoor mat drills during off-season training. The trait can make people vulnerable to illness from exertion.

Following his brother’s death, Devard Darling, who also has sickle cell trait, was taken off the team, though the school offered to continue his scholarship.

“The team cardiologist told me I could never play football again,” he said. But he transferred to Washington State University and played there and later for the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.

Devard said he still feels loyalty to FSU, though he called it “bittersweet,” and said he insisted his brother, who also loved the school, be buried in his FSU uniform.

The Darling bill is one of about two dozen claims bills filed in this year’s legislative session seeking compensation for people injured by negligence of government employees, many of them years ago. Even if a local government or state agrees to a settlement, such bills often languish for years.

Joyner and Jones said they have no assurance the bill will be heard in committee this year.