A 32-year-old former New York Giants offensive lineman and Super Bowl winner died of heat stroke after working outside in triple-digit temperatures in his native Arkansas, officials said Friday.
Mitch Petrus, who played three seasons in the NFL, was pronounced dead at 10:45 p.m. Thursday at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs told NBC News.
The high temperature in Little Rock on Thursday was 92 degrees, with a heat index of 103 degrees, as the city like much of the nation is struggling through a brutal — and now deadly — heat wave.
"He was working at his family shop, outside ... and suffered heat stroke," Hobbs said. "He was drinking water but not enough electrolytes."
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The 6-foot-2, 350-pound Petrus did not appear to have any serious pre-existing medical condition that contributed to his heat-stroke death, according to Hobbs.
Heat stroke is a serious, life-threatening condition characterized by symptoms that include a body temperature higher than 103 degrees Farenheit; red, hot and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; and a throbbing headache.
The Lonoke County Sheriff's Department received a call for a medical emergency at the family's towing business, X-Hog Wrecker and Roadside, at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, authorities said.
Petrus graduated from the University of Arkansas in December 2009 with a degree in agricultural business.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mitch Petrus," according to a statement from the University of Arkansas. "He was an outstanding competitor, incredible teammate and a true Hog. He will be greatly missed by many. Rest easy Mitch."
Chris Mortenson, who covers pro football for ESPN, said his family was close to the former player.
"We are grieving the loss of Mitch Petrus, a close friend of our family, especially my son Alex," Mortenson tweeted.
Hobbs, a native of Carlisle, Arkansas, was an all-Southeastern Conference performer for the Razorbacks and blocked for future NFL running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
"He's a joy to be around, he'd put a smile on anybody's face, brighten up any room he walks into," McFadden told KARK, an NBC affiliate in Little Rock. "He's going to missed a whole lot. It's really tough. It's really hard to swallow that news."
He played in the Giants' Super Bowl win over the Patriots on Feb. 5, 2012.
After his NFL career ended, he went home to central Arkansas, where he got involved in local politics and the high school football community.
He worked was chief of staff to state Sen. Jonathan Dismang in the 2018 legislative session.
"Mitch was bigger than life in every possible way," DIsmang said in a statement on Friday. "I’ve never known anyone with more contagious energy, positive enthusiasm, or a purer outlook. And that’s still an understatement. Going to miss you, buddy."
For the past four autumns, he worked under the Friday night lights as a high school football analyst for local Fox affiliate KLRT and its show "Fearless Friday."
KLRT sports director Wess Moore said coaches constantly asked him to send Petrus to cover their games because they appreciated his relentlessly upbeat demeanor.
"He was a great personality, a great person," Moore told his station on Friday. "He was just larger than life."
A public memorial service for Petrus has been scheduled for Sunday at Carlisle High School in the gymnasium.