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JoJo Garcia, former East Ridge football player and Gophers recruit, dead at 19

Former Gophers football recruit Jovanny Joel "JoJo" Garcia died in St. Paul on Monday, according to a St. Paul police report. He was 19 years old.

"Sadly, it appears to be a suicide," said Steve Linders, a St. Paul police spokesman.

Garcia died at his residence, according to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office. The cause and manner of his death are pending toxicology results.

Garcia was the first player to commit to Minnesota in the 2016 recruiting class.

A defensive tackle, he played for Cretin-Derham Hall in 2013 and East Ridge in Woodbury in 2014 when the Raptors made it to the Class 6A state quarterfinals. East Ridge eventually forfeited all of its 2014 victories due to Garcia's ineligibility dealing with his residence. He transferred to Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights his senior year but was ineligible to play football.

Garcia committed to the Gophers in 2015 before former head coach Jerry Kill's resignation. He decommitted due to academic and personal issues and announced his commitment to Iowa Western Community College but never attended the school. Former Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys called Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier on Garcia's behalf.

Two of Garcia's former teammates at East Ridge are on the Gophers roster this season: redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Green and freshman running back Dominik London. A number of other Gophers in the 2016 class also had relationships with Garcia.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, whose tenure at the U started in January, sent condolences to Garcia's family and friends.

"One thing about this is any time you lose a student-athlete at some point, it's very tragic and it affects people in different ways," said Fleck, who has had several players cope with deaths of friends and family this season. "... When it's in-house, at some point, whether I was here or not here, you have to make sure that you are very compassionate towards all of their needs, and we'll definitely be on that."

Mara H. Gottfried and Trevor Squire of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.