The first person Northern Michigan offensive lineman Kyle Augustine texted when he returned to Marquette after winter break was his close friend and teammate Anthony Herbert to go and grab some dinner.
It wasn't uncommon for the two to hang out away from the football team. Like last Sunday when they went to Walmart together to buy school supplies for the semester, or later on that night when they hung out in the dorms and stayed up late because neither had classes to attend Monday morning.
The two probably would have done more of the same Tuesday night.
After working out Tuesday morning, Herbert returned to his dorm and started watching a movie, according to a statement released by his mother, Lori, but he was later found dead.
His roommate, as well as EMS, attempted to revive the 20-year-old sophomore, but the family later learned the likely cause of death was from his enlarged heart something they didn't know the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman had.
"It's very devastating," said Augustine, a 2016 Gaylord graduate. "He is a pretty big-time leader for us. He was very close to everyone.
"He always had a smile on his face and knew when to say the right things at the right time to get everyone going. He was that guy that everyone looked up to as a leader on the offensive line. He was just meant to be a leader in this world."
Herbert has been a leader almost his whole career.
After his junior year of high school at Lapeer West, his school consolidated with Lapeer East, which meant the two schools would share both a mascot and a football team for his senior season.
Without being asked to, Herbert stepped up and helped bridge the gap between the two programs to ensure unity before the season started.
He led winter workouts and lifting sessions. Once a week, he even took the team to Pueblo Viejo, a Mexican restaurant in Lapeer, for Taco Tuesdays where the lineman enjoyed $1 tacos.
"It's unusual when two schools come together that the merger is so complete," Lapeer coach Mike Smith said. "But that's just the kind of figure he was, and he was really key in making that happen.
"There were other kids who helped, too, but he was one of the most polarizing on the team in making people feel good about the merger."
During Herbert's senior season, the Lightning went 10-1 in their debut campaign, outscoring opponents, 470-91. They won all nine of their regular season games, including six Saginaw Valley League-Red games.
Lapeer topped Romeo in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs, but they tasted defeat for the first time the following week when they lost a close call to Clarkston, 23-20, in the district championship.
Herbert's personality off the field had much to do with Lapeer's success that season, his coach said.
"He just always treated people right and always had a smile on his face," Smith said. "He was a tough, intimidating character on the field but really a teddy bear off of the field. He was a nice kid."
After the season, Herbert, an all-stater, elected to play at NMU because he enjoyed the outdoorsy atmosphere in Marquette, especially with the chance to fish in the Upper Peninsula.
He redshirted his freshman year, but he became a starter at left guard this past season and played in all 11 games of the Wildcats' 3-8 season. He even earned all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference academic honors afterward.
Although he was only in his second season, linemen such as Augustine looked up to Herbert as a mentor.
"He helped me out with a lot of things, especially with footwork, and he helped me out, punching-wise," Augustine said. "He was always a great guy to go up to and ask questions. Basically, I could learn anything from him.
"When I came up here, he was basically a big brother to me."
Herbert worked out at Lapeer during this past winter break and assisted some of the Lightning players in the weight room.
"He made some connections with our newcomers and younger guys," Smith said. "He was being a positive role model to the other high school kids, and that's just who he was.
"He had to do his running to stay in shape, so he encouraged another guy on our team to go with him and do that. He took him under his wing, and that's what big guys like our guy needed. They need a buddy to get them into it, and that was him.
"He was just a great teammate, and for his parents, my goodness, he was a terrific son and brother to his sister. Anywhere in Lapeer you'd go, if you mention his name, it creates a smile on their face because that's how positive he was. He was a polarizing figure with our school. This one is going to be a tough one."
The Wildcats fired coach Chris Ostrowsky after the season and hired former Ferris State defensive coordinator Kyle Nystrom to replace him.
Once again, Herbert was expected to help bring two different regimes together.
While he won't be there in a physical sense, Herbert has already helped Nystrom's program bond this past week, and the team will use Herbert as inspiration while it prepares for spring practice.
"We've looked at this week as, 'What would Herbie do?' " Augustine said. "Would he want us to sit back and relax or would he want us to continue to work? So we got up (Wednesday morning) and went to the weight room for him and were running for him.
"This is a first for me. I've never had to deal with anything like this before, and it's definitely crazy, for sure. We're dedicating everything we do to him and saying, 'What would Herbie do?' now."
This story originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
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