Guthrie football player dies after Aug. 13 heat stroke

Rue McNiel, Guthrie, TX


“There is no wrong emotion to feel in these times,” Guthrie CSD superintendent Jodie Reel told the sixty or so secondary students gathered for a Tuesday morning private assembly at the school. “It’s okay to cry, or even laugh.”

Their classmate, senior Rue McNiel of Guthrie, died Monday evening at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, according to Reel.

McNiel, 18, had been transported there a week earlier from University Medical Center in Lubbock after suffering heat stroke during two-a-day football practice August 13. Students and community members in the West Texas town of 160 had been joined by thousands elsewhere who had posted notes of concern and continual prayer on social media.

Among the stories and thoughts Guthrie classmates briefly shared, said Reel, were remembrances “for a kid who made us laugh.”

Reel said that he had spoken with the student’s mother, Mary McNiel, by phone about 7:20 p.m. Monday. Mary McNiel remains in Houston at this time, with family present.

Rue McNiel transferred to Guthrie in 2019 from Hamlin, and played on the 6-man Jaguars team as a lineman.

The tightly knit school community is heartbroken, said Reel. Many have already supported an online donation campaign organized by friends at, which will continue to be the site for assistance for the family.

“We lost a funny and sweet young man yesterday who loved being a part of Guthrie and was so excited to be a senior,” wrote Guthrie teacher Ashley Pettiet Branch on Facebook. “Please keep Rue’s mother and Jaguar family in your prayers.”

There was no word at press time of a memorial service.





School administrators faced the devastating


At football practice August 13 for the six-man Guthrie Jaguars, Rue McNiel, 18, experienced heat stroke and was transported to University Medical Center in Lubbock, then transferred Monday evening to


His mother, Mary Erwin-McNiel, posted on Facebook August 15, “Rue is still very fragile, but is trying to fight with every bit of Jaguar & (Hamlin) Piper in him.” Guthrie CSD superintendent Jodie Reel said that coaches took players to Lubbock to visit their teammate, the only senior on the squad, on Friday.


“Our community is working together alongside many other small surrounding communities to help raise money for the McNiel family, as they will be undertaking many medical expenses now and in the future, Reel said. “We encourage everyone who is able to do so, to reach out to the family.”


A GoFundMe website has been established by friends to help with these efforts at #RallyForRue. As of press time, the page reported $3,552 raised of a $10,000 goal.

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