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Auburn student assistant had lifelong heart issues

Joe Bagwell

In his very first comments to the media following a tough two-point loss to LSU Saturday, head coach Gene Chizik announced that it was “a very heart” with which the Tigers played as student assistant coach Joe Bagwell died of unspecified causes shortly before kickoff.

Many of you, either via email or in the comments of that posting, have asked if there were any details as to the young man’s passing.

According to the Huntsville Times, Bagwell was born with literally half of a heart, living with just a right ventricle that forced him to undergo three heart operations before he had reached the age of three.  Those health issues ultimately led to his death at the way-too-young age of 23.

His medical condition never allowed him to play football, but the then-teenager was a part of the sport in high school by serving as his team’s student manager.  After graduating high school, he was determined to become a part of the Auburn football program he loved dearly, as evidenced by this anecdote relayed by his father to the paper.

His dad said his son was always persistent, even asking former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville how to get involved with the team — and for his cell phone number — after a church service in Auburn. To no one’s surprise, Joseph found a spot on the team, eventually helping Chizik and the coaches with special teams and the offensive line and earning himself a national championship ring in 2010.

“That championship) was the highlight of his career,” his father said. “That and watching Cam (Newton) play. His plan was to graduate from Auburn, stay and work on his Masters and work for the team.”

Bagwell was on schedule to graduate with a degree in Health Promotion next August.

When it comes to Bagwell’s life, the enduring thread woven in and out of his all-too-brief time on this earth is Auburn University.

“It was Jesus first, Auburn second and studying third,” Joe D. Bagwell, his father, told t. “He wanted to make an impact at Auburn, whether as a water boy or assistant coach.”

Bagwell will be laid to rest Wednesday.  The Times writes that, in lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts in memory of Joseph be made to the “Clicking for a Cause” fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation, 101 Sivley Road, Huntsville, AL 35801.

(Photo credit: WAFF-48)

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23 Responses to “Auburn student assistant had lifelong heart issues”
  1. normtide says: Sep 24, 2012 6:27 PM

    I had heard about this young man a couple of years back, our pastor had known his, but I had forgotten. This man had passion for what he loved. He showed courage everyday. Go rest high on that mountain.

  2. jrillah10 says: Sep 24, 2012 6:45 PM

    Very sad story. Gene should be proud. He gave a young man a chance and it fulfilled a dream. To bad the only time we really hear of something like this is when something bad happens. God Bless Joe and the Bagwell family. RIP. War Eagle from above.

  3. timmons94 says: Sep 24, 2012 7:10 PM

    God bless . What a great kid

  4. southernpatriots says: Sep 24, 2012 7:48 PM

    Friends telephoned with this information that could not be released by the school, but was released and made public by the Huntsville Times. What an extraordinary young man. What a testimony to all those who were of able bodies and to the players he assisted in high school and then at Auburn.

    What a great effort by his team v. LSU on Saturday!

    A great inspiration to us all!

    “It was Jesus first, Auburn second and studying third,” Joe D. Bagwell, his father …”

    May Joe Bagwell’s inspiration resound throughout War Eagle Nation and around the world!

  5. grudenthediva says: Sep 24, 2012 8:24 PM

    The person thumbing these comments down must lead a sad, lonely life. Seriously.

  6. southernpatriots says: Sep 24, 2012 8:31 PM


    You are right. When Coach Jimbo and his wife were featured on a CFT thread about their young son and his serious illness, there was an outpouring of well wishes from fans from every team just about it, the SEC and ACC fans especially. Then all of a sudden one night during the night somebody came along and posted numerous thumbs down. Hard to believe. All everyone was doing was wishing the Fishers the very best with their son, making donations to the charity they set up, etc. Here we see it with this thread…you are so right.

  7. auburntigers34 says: Sep 24, 2012 8:32 PM

    my guess is that the person giving the thumbs down in this thread has a stairway that leads to 7.

  8. southernpatriots says: Sep 24, 2012 8:35 PM


    Whoa! I never thought of that. I know one poster who when he/she posts is always negative against anything that is good, and has so many horrible things to post against all other schools except Penn State, that’s the one you are thinking about? If so, I believe you are right! I am going to give you a thumbs up before he can locate your posting.

    Thank you for reminding me (and us all!)

  9. Deb says: Sep 24, 2012 9:35 PM

    Deepest condolences to the Auburn family and to Joe Bagwell’s family and friends. Such a heartbreaking story. Was swapping memories this weekend with a lifelong friend who’s a diehard Auburn fan. I’m glad this young man had the opportunity to see the Tigers win the NC in 2010 and that he lived his short life doing what he loved most. I pray that’s a comfort to those he’s left behind.

  10. bleedburgandyandgold says: Sep 24, 2012 10:29 PM

    What a sad yet inspiring story. Hope this young man is playing football now with all the other greats that have passed away he earned his place at their side!

  11. dhc1980 says: Sep 24, 2012 10:42 PM

    If you are seriously giving a thumbs down to this story, I would love to meet you one day. I am sure you are living in your mother’s basement and dillusional at the age of 35 or you are 15 living with your parents and think it is cool to be a sick, disturbed person. My guess though, is that you do it for attention from people like me who fault you so you feel important. Regardless of the reason, you will NEVER be as great as this kid in the story on the best day of your life.

  12. crazyfootballfun says: Sep 24, 2012 11:18 PM

    With all the stuff going on it is a good reminder to hug your kids, friends, family and remember how short life can be. May the family find peace and comfort.

  13. suprmous says: Sep 24, 2012 11:34 PM

    It’s like I said yestday, taken too soon but may the One Above give his family and friends along with him the peace and understanding as to why he was taken so soon. Normtide and southernpatriots, you 2 couldn’t have said it any bettah, Bless you and the rest of the Good People aroun here.

  14. steeler1nation says: Sep 25, 2012 12:36 AM

    who are sicko losers on here that downvote genuine heartfelt messages of condolence? what is wrong with people nowadays? geeze.

  15. suprmous says: Sep 25, 2012 4:14 AM

    For the one(s) who vote others down, I hope you never have to go thru the pain of losin a relative or anybody you’re close to; if you’re lucky to have somebody. It takes a very apathic, unfeeling, person to criticize another /or others for havin a heart. In today’s World it’s hard enuff for people to slow down because of how things, i.e. the economy and people’s lifestyles have changed. Well maybe not for everybody but for quite a few. Even some those of us who attend Church can see where the Big Guy’s bein ignored at times or at least some in my inner circle and I’ve noticed. This isn’t meant to be a sermon but just mind provokin as to how you can show so much disrespect for others and their feelings. My attitude’s the same today as it was 55 yrs ago: I can accept people and the way treat me but just question how they can treat others.

  16. tigersgeaux says: Sep 25, 2012 7:58 AM

    I am late to this thread. I have been working doubles and sometimes did not know what day it was. My heart and prayers go out to the Bagwell family and Coach Chizik and his staff and team. Joe’s father is a great father and man. What an inspiration and great asset to Auburn Joe was.

    Some pervert has invaded this thread and others related to this story, posting negatives for everyone who is just praying for and wishing well for the Bagwell family and Auburn in this time of sorrowful loss. May you never loss a loved one.

    An Auburn fan may have had the answer, it may truly be the poster who is a Penn State fan who objects to NCAA penalties and has taken it out on fans of other teams and other threads ever since. But I don’t know how he is able to post so many negative thumbs, maybe others are also doing this. Shame on you all.

  17. dmvtransplant says: Sep 25, 2012 9:52 AM

    I’m no SEC fan, but I was wondering if Auburn is going to do something special in the kids memory? Like a half time ceremony or moment of silence before the game or even something with his name on it in the athletic building? I was just wondering?

  18. normtide says: Sep 25, 2012 1:13 PM

    There are reasons why I pay absolutely no attention to the thumbs. Some people have a miserable life, and want company. The truth needs no validation. If I say Elvis just pumped my gas, and I get 30 thumbs up, it does not make it true. And other times, people get friends to like their post just to be friendly. People say and do things here that they would never to a person face to face.

    This was a good kid making the most out of life, none of us are promised a day. I would have been proud to know him.

  19. Deb says: Sep 25, 2012 1:46 PM

    edgy (for those who remember him) posted when the thumbs were first introduced that they’d be used by petty groups of people as a kind of hit squad against anyone they didn’t like–fans of rival teams, or people who speak up for themselves or their teams/coaches/conferences even when it isn’t popular. He said cowards would gang up on those individuals, attacking any post they make–even condolences–and try to use the thumbs to drive them off the boards. He called it censorship by thumbs. He was right, and he was the first victim.

    But as normtide said, truth needs no validation … and no one should worry about the disapproval of bullies who need numbers and anonymity to feel strong.

  20. Deb says: Sep 25, 2012 2:31 PM

    And for the terminally dense … I come and go from the site based on my workload … not on how well I’m received. So thumbs away. It won’t drive me off 😀

  21. normtide says: Sep 25, 2012 2:33 PM

    Mrs. Deb-

    To paraphrase Churchill: so you have enemies, good for you. It means at some point you stood up for something.

  22. lucky5936 says: Sep 25, 2012 3:17 PM


    One of my favorite quote. Churchill was a leader as was this young man. Even in a loss, I am happy to see Auburn played their hearts out against a tough LSU team for him. Thank you to the Bama fans for your support. Despite the rivalry on the field, both sides always support each other through tragedy. This young man is deserving of that. Thank you!

  23. Deb says: Sep 25, 2012 4:37 PM

    @normtide …

    Thank you!

    @lucky5936 …

    That’s what my Auburn friend and I were swapping stories about on game night. We watched together many times as Bama and Auburn battled it out when we were kids. But can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed an Auburn game more than Saturday’s. They had me on the edge of my chair. I love defense, and that was a great defensive effort made more poignant by the knowledge that they were playing for this young man.

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