Former Herd star Rembert was 'honest, tireless worker'
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - J.T. Rembert, a four-year football letterwinner and two-time team captain at linebacker for Marshall University, died suddenly Monday night. The 29-year-old was vacationing with family in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Horry County Deputy Coroner Tony Hendrick said the preliminary cause of death was pulmonary embolism.
Those who knew Rembert talked about the tough, hard-nosed player he was, but talked more about the man he was - honest, hard working and compassionate.
He was sports agent David Rich's first client, and his favorite.
"The best way to say it is I have two little boys. And I hope they grow up to be the kind of man J.T. Rembert was," Rich said. "He was an honest, tireless worker. He was a friend beyond the length of which most friends would go."
Rembert is survived by his wife Shannon, who is expecting a daughter this fall, and their 2-year-old son, Keegan.
Rembert came to Marshall in 2001 from Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Md. He played in 11 games as a reserve his freshman year before becoming a starter as a sophomore and a team captain his junior and senior years. During his Thundering Herd career, Rembert recorded 175 tackles with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. In his final game, Marshall's 32-14 loss to Cincinnati in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, he set the school record for tackles in a bowl game with 13.
His teammates twice voted him captain, a sign of the respect they had for him, said Rembert's former head coach, Bob Pruett. The last thing Pruett would tell his teams before leaving the locker room was to play as close to perfect as possible, and he said Rembert always took that to heart.
Yet behind those heavy hits was a gentle, caring man. And while some football players might want to shield their gentle sides from public view, Rembert never did.
"If he tried to hide it," Pruett said, "it would ooze out."
Rich knew that, if Rembert said he would do something, it would get done. He worked with Rich's agency, helping clients with life and injury insurance and other health and employment benefits. Rembert had an office in Huntington, attorney Kerry A. Nessel said.
Rembert worked for Nessel as a paralegal for three years after he graduated, and the two had known each other since Rembert was a Marshall sophomore. Nessel considered Rembert a little brother to him and a big brother to his son Quin.
"When we'd see each other, we'd hug at the beginning and when we left, we'd hug at the end," Nessel said. "He's one of the sweetest men I've ever met."
Rembert stayed close to the Marshall program. MU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said Rembert could be seen at games, around the Marshall facilities and visiting practices. He hosted the Johnathan Goddard Memorial Golf Tournament, named for Rembert's former Herd teammate, who played for the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts before dying in a 2008 motorcycle crash.
Even after his playing days ended, Rembert never stopped being a part of the Huntington community, Hamrick said.
"When you talk about J.T. Rembert, one word comes to mind - class," he said. "He's a class guy."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.