Two schools are in mourning after a father and son who both played football at Mississippi State and Pascagoula High School were killed in a highway crash while heading to a game.
Keith Joseph Jr., a current Mississippi State player, and Keith Joseph Sr. were driving in a pickup Friday afternoon, bound for their former high school to see the team play.
The 18-year-old Joseph Jr. was redshirting this season as a freshman defensive lineman. His 44-year-old father was a linebacker for Mississippi State from 1989 to 1992 and is 10th in school history in sacks.
Pascagoula football coach Lewis Sims said his players learned of the deaths Friday night after their game. The Josephs were still a constant presence around the team, and Sims said players and coaches took the news hard.
"They're phenomenal people," Sims said Saturday. "Just good down-home folks who are hard working. Great guys. It's just such a sad time for our community. Keith Jr. could just light up a room with his smile and his dad worked so hard and sacrificed a lot to help him achieve his goals."
The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the accident happened about 2:50 p.m. Friday on Mississippi Highway 57, 6 miles north of Leakesville.
Joseph Jr. was driving a 2011 Chevrolet pickup southbound when he apparently lost control. The truck veered into the median, re-entered the southbound lanes and overturned several times, ejecting the driver.
His father was in the passenger seat. Both were pronounced dead at the scene by Greene County Coroner Ladd Pulliam.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said the university community is "heartbroken" over the loss of "all of the lives these Bulldogs touched."
"Keith had such a promising future as a Bulldog following in the legacy started by Keith Sr., who played for our program 25 years ago," he said Friday night. "Keith was a great student, a hard worker and a great teammate to all of us."
This is the second time in five years Mississippi State football is facing such a loss — defensive lineman Nick Bell died of cancer in 2010.
"Words can't express the sorrow we feel by having lost not one, but two members of the Bulldog family, father and son," athletic director Scott Stricklin said. "I was a classmate of Keith Sr., and took pride in having Keith Jr. follow in his dad's footsteps at MSU. They will both be missed greatly. It's such a tragic reminder that life is a precious and every day is a gift from God."
Funeral arrangements are pending. The No. 24 Bulldogs were off this weekend after a 31-13 victory at Missouri on Thursday night.
Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this story.