Aaron Alford, former University of Utah defensive backs coach and current Park City High School athletic director and assistant head football coach, died Monday morning of an apparent heart attack.
Park City Fire District battalion chief Patrick Harwood said a unit responded to a call Monday morning at the Park City School District offices.
The emergency call, Harwood said, was for a "gentleman suffering from a loss of consciousness."
"Our crews transported him to the Park City Medical Center," he said.
Alford, 39, was preparing to enter his first year with the Miners and had recently been appointed to the high school's athletic director post. He also had worked on opening the New Beginnings Behavioral Treatment Agency in West Jordan, a center designed to treat at-risk youths between ages 9-17. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
Nate Washington, a close friend of Alford, who is the general manager of the Utah Argonauts professional outdoor football team, said Alford's death is a tragedy.
"This world has experienced a great loss," he said. "Aaron was a great husband and father, and an incredible friend and Christian man."
Washington added that he admired many of Alford's qualities and characteristics.
"He was the epitome of leadership," he said. "His demeanor, his dedication to his family and friends those that he came in contact with, he impacted. He was very dedicated to the youths that he came in contact with."
Washington hopes the New Beginnings facility honors Alford's memory.
"That facility should open in honor of him," he said. "The county, the city and the local area will benefit greatly from the efforts he put forward."
The facility was originally scheduled to open this Friday, but Cedric Pittman, New Beginnings executive director and a long-time friend of Alford, said those plans have been put on hold.
"The business aspect is going to wait for now," he said. "We will open eventually I believe it is what Aaron would have wanted. But, as of today, we will not open on Friday."
He added that he's devastated Alford won't get to see the center open.
"He was about to see his hard work pay off," he said. "That was going to happen this Friday."
Monday afternoon's high school football practice was called off to give players time to mourn, PCHS coach Mike Shepherd said.
"Coach Alford probably would have wanted us to practice," he said. "But football is not more important than life. Each day, at least for the next few days, we're going to deal with it the best we can."
He added that the players were told about Alford's death in a team meeting early Monday afternoon.
"We had a meeting in the lecture hall and obviously kids were very concerned, disturbed and distraught," he said. "Teenagers are very resilient, but at the same time, you realize they're still just kids. This is really hard to justify in their minds, and rightfully so."
Shepherd said he and the other coaches admired the passion Alford brought to the game of football.
"I haven't known him that long, but he approached me and wanted to be a part of our football program in any way, shape or form," he said. "I got an email from him in the middle of winter that said, 'Coach, any time you want to talk about football, you just contact me. I just love to talk about football any time, day or night.' It wasn't just about football. He just loved the environment of being around kids. His enthusiasm was amazing."
Pittman said he'll miss the ease with which he could talk to Alford, who was always willing to lend a helping hand.
"We go all the way back to middle school," he said. "He's not just a friend he's a brother to me. I'll miss the long talks with him he was a mentor type of person."
On a personal level, Washington said he'll deeply miss his loyal friend.
"During the week, we just kind of kept each other going, bounced ideas off each other business or football, or both," he said. "Every Sunday at church we'd just hang out and talk. I can't believe he's gone."
A viewing for Alford will be held on Friday, Aug. 16, from 4 to 7 p.m., at the Mountain Life Church, 7375 Silver Creek Rd., Park City. A memorial celebration of Alford's life will be held at the church on Saturday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m.