By Angela Davis

MARSHALL, Minn. (WCCO) — John Herndon was having the time of his life at Southwest Minnesota State University.

He was making straight As, had an adoring girlfriend and was the captain of the Mustangs wheelchair basketball team.

This team is more like a family, with players recruited from around the country. Coach Derek Klinkner was impressed by John’s work ethic.

John Herndon (credit: CBS)

John Herndon (credit: CBS)

“Everyone can agree with this, he would give 100 percent every single time,” Klinkner said. “It if was just a 30-minute push, if it was the five-by-five scrimmage, he was always giving 100 percent.”

Jesus Villa was John’s teammate, roommate and best friend from high school in Michigan where they grew up.

“Although he came to me for basketball advice and basketball help, I feel like I learned more from him, you know, just to be a better man, be a better person,” Villa said.

He says John was strategic and thoughtful, spearheading study sessions to keep everyone’s grades up.

John Herndon with his Mustangs team (credit: CBS)

John Herndon (2nd to left) with his Mustangs teammates (credit: CBS)

John went into cardiac arrest during practice two weeks ago. The entire team traveled to Michigan for his funeral.

“He is the most selfless, or unselfish player that I ever coached,” Klinkner said. “He didn’t really care about personal stats. He didn’t care, you know, if he was playing. He wanted to win the game.”

John was born with part of his spine missing. His mother says he could walk, but only short distances. In wheelchair basketball, he found strength and passion.

And in Marshall, Minnesota, he found a lot of love.

“I’ll never be able to tell him thank you, but I know somewhere he can hear me, so John, thank you for everything. I appreciate it,” Villa said.

John Herndon died on Feb. 14. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his family. Donations can also be made to the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in his honor.

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