By Carey Phillips

John Peacock, Western Carolina’s offensive line coach, died last Wednesday, Aug. 18, at age 32.

In an email sent Friday to “Catamount Nation,” which included students, Athletic Director Alex Gary announced Peacock’s death and called it “sudden and unexpected.”

In a Facebook post, Peacock’s fiancee, Erika Alexander, said his death was due to COVID-19.

“John Peacock passed away on Wednesday evening at our home in Sylva due to complications from COVID,” the post says. “He had tested positive for COVID last Saturday. On Sunday they said his O2 was low. He said he had shortness of breath every once in awhile. I had been visiting my family in Florida since last week due to him working 16 hour days and us not having internet access at the house. Those of you who knew him knew he was stubborn as hell and hated the doctor, so he didn’t want to go to the hospital.”

She ends it by stating, “Go get the vaccine and wear your mask.”

Peacock and Alexander had planned to marry in February.

Gary’s email says, “Known by his colleagues and student-athletes as a selfless, hard worker who was always upbeat and constantly humming or singing, Coach Peacock will be sorely missed.”

He said a moment of silence will be held in Peacock’s honor during the first football game Sept. 4 at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

“Catamount Athletics continues to follow COVID-19 protocols and guidance from Western Carolina University, the NCAA and the Southern Conference,” said a statement from Daniel Hooker, WCU’s assistant athletic director for media relations.

He said any student-athlete who shows COVID related symptoms is tested, and all non-vaccinated student-athletes are tested twice weekly.

“More than 92 percent of the individuals in the Catamount football bubble have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Hooker said.

As of Tuesday morning, he said no football players have tested positive during preseason fall camp.

“WCU strongly encourages vaccination of all its faculty, staff and students as it remains the best path toward a safe and successful fall semester,” Hooker said.

Peacock joined the staff this spring along with new head coach Kerwin Bell. Peacock spent the previous year as an assistant at Tusculum.

Peacock was an assistant at his alma mater, Valdosta State, from 2016-18, during which time Bell was head coach. They worked together as assistants at South Florida in 2019.

A native of Gainesville, Florida, Peacock was on the coaching staff of Buchholz High School in Gainesville from 2008-15.