Touching memorial honors PSU player who died suddenly after surgery

A celebration of life memorial service honored AJ Schlatter on Sunday, at Portland State University.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A celebration of life memorial service honored AJ Schlatter on Sunday, at Portland State University.

Schlatter, 20, is the Vikings football player who died suddenly after minor throat surgery.

Friends and family were joined by Schlatter's teammates and PSU faculty members at the special service, which packed the Stott Center.

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“Many people have taken time to share with us, how he touched their lives,” his father, James Schlatter said during the ceremony.

The Schlatter family also announced that they have created a football scholarship fund so another student can play at Portland State, in honor of AJ.

AJ died after a simple surgery

Schlatter passed away at home on Jan. 17, due to a complication that occurred after he had a surgery to get his tonsils out.

"Things like this aren't suppose to happen. We cherish every student's wellbeing, and the loss of AJ will be tough on our family," said Director of Athletics Mark Rountree. "He represented his family and Portland State with passion, courage, and humility that made us all proud. He will be missed."

Schlatter's father told KGW the surgery was on Friday and seemed to go well. On Sunday night, they were watching football on TV together and AJ fell asleep on the couch. Some time later, he started having labored breathing. As AJ's condition deteriorated, James performed CPR until paramedics showed up.

"I couldn't get him to wake up," James said. "I got him down on the floor and tried to keep his airway open and I called 911 and I was doing chest compressions."

AJ was flown to Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center, where doctors and nurses worked for nearly 30 minutes to revive him, but could not. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"I wish nobody to go through having to do that to your own kid," James said. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions... There is a big hole and it's not going to be filled for any time."

The family is from Canby and AJ was a freshman at PSU.

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His father posted a statement Monday on Facebook that read, in part, "He was such a inspiration to me and I was and am so PROUD to be his father. In his 20+ years he became a greater man then I could ever dream of becoming."

We lost our son tonight, Aj Schlatter I want to thank the efforts of the Canby Police and Fire departments, as well as...

Posted by James A Schlatter on Monday, January 18, 2016

"My heart is with the Schlatter family," said Vikings Head Coach Bruce Barnum. "They are our focus right now. We lost a diamond that will never be replaced. He was the definition of what we are about at PSU."

Schlatter had just completed his redshirt freshman season as a linebacker on the PSU football team. He started 10 games for the Vikings in 2015, with 62 tackles. He was named Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in a win over Eastern Washington on Nov. 21. Schlatter had 12 tackles, two sacks, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble in the game.

Originally a walk-on at PSU, Schlatter earned a full scholarship with the program.

"He was so proud of that. But it definitely was a long, hard path and it wasn't easy," his mother T.J. recalled. "He didn't quit. He just kept fighting and kept believing that through hard work, something good was going to happen."

"He just loved everything," his sister Kasey added. "He's touched people's lives and made an impact everywhere."

Schlatter's entire family was deeply ingrained in Viking athletics. His mother was a star volleyball player and assistant coach from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. She is also a member of the PSU Athletics Hall of Fame. Garyn, a recent graduate, was a star volleyball player for the Vikings. AJ's father spent time as an assistant football coach during the 1980s.

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His family said it will be a long time before his death makes sense to them, if ever.

"Parents hug and love your kids today. Kids tell your parents just how much you love them. Better yet show each other each and every day," James said. "Don't waste an opportunity."

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