A 21-year-old University of Alabama swimmer died Monday night, a tragic result of the fierce storms and tornado that swept through the Tuscaloosa area.
John Servati was reportedly killed after a retaining wall fell on top of him, according to Al.com. Servati was propping the wall up long enough to save his girlfriend and has since been described as a hero by one fellow teammate.
John Servati died a hero. Held up a concrete wall long enough for his girlfriend to get out from under it before it collapsed again on him.
— Anna Rae Gwarjanski (@annaraeoflight) April 29, 2014
John's mom told our team this morning he always wanted to be an Alabama swimmer, and he always wanted to be a hero. He accomplished both.— Anna Rae Gwarjanski (@annaraeoflight) April 29, 2014
The coaches met with the swimming and diving team on Tuesday morning once Servati's identity had been confirmed.
“John Servati was an extraordinary young man of great character and warmth who had a tremendously giving spirit,” Alabama coach Dennis Pursley said in a statement. “During this incredibly difficult time our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all who had the good fortune to know him. He will forever be in our hearts and a part of the Crimson Tide legacy.”
Servati, a junior, made the SEC All-Academic Honor Roll three times and carried a GPA of better than 3.5. His latest achievement concerning the honor roll came just four days ago.
Alabama's athletic website, RollTide.com, had an opening-page tribute to him.
“John definitely had a genuine heart,” Alabama captain Phillip Deaton said. “He was a carefree guy who always had this huge smile on his face. He was my training partner for three years and I can tell you that while he liked to goof around and have fun, when he stepped up on the block he was intensely focused – he was a competitor and an amazing teammate. As a team, we are doing the best we can right now.”
A Mississippi native, Servati swam the backstroke and freestyle for the Tide.
Dozens of tornadoes swept through the South on Monday, hitting Alabama and Mississippi particularly hard, and there have been numerous reported deaths.