When Ricky Hughes arrived at The Fieldhouse, a Columbia sports bar, on Saturday night, he was wearing an oversized, gold necklace around his neck. Hanging from the necklace was a charm that read “N2.”
Hughes, who said he was a friend of former Missouri football running back Damien Nash, said he received the necklace as a gift from Nash after the NFL’s Tennessee Titans drafted Nash in 2005. Hughes said the diamond-encrusted necklace was worth several thousand dollars. The N2 charm represented Nash and the No. 2 jersey he wore while playing for Missouri.
Hughes had just come from St. Louis where he played in a charity basketball game that Nash hosted. Nash, 24, collapsed shortly after returning to his suburban St. Louis home from the event and early Saturday evening was pronounced dead after being taken to a St. Louis area hospital.
The game, which featured several other former MU football players, was held to raise money for the Darris Nash Find a Heart Foundation.
Damien Nash was the younger brother of Darris Nash, 25, who received a heart transplant last month.
The St. Louis County medical examiner’s office told the Associated Press results of an autopsy scheduled for Sunday might not be known for days.
At the basketball game Saturday, Hughes said he didn’t notice Nash acting differently than he normally did. In fact, Hughes said Nash was named the MVP of the game.
“He was scoring. He was MVP,” Hughes said. “I think he had 24 points. He was fine. He was happy.”
Nash’s agent, David Canter, told the AP that Nash had four physicals since 2004 and was in good health. He said the Denver Broncos, who Nash played for last season, planned their own investigation.
Nash was scheduled to co-host a private party at the Fieldhouse with friend and business partner Christopher Creath, an MU student. After hearing of Nash’s death, Creath changed the party into a dedication for his friend.
“I’m shocked,” Hughes said Saturday night. “At first I was real sad, but now I’m like shocked. It just doesn’t seem real right now. I saw him five minutes before that.”
The party included performances by several rap artists and groups, including Hughes, that Nash and Creath promoted and helped fund. The groups dedicated their performances to Nash.
Nash bought equipment for some of the groups, including a St. Louis group called Varcity, who sang “God Bless America” during last year’s Game 5 of the World Series.
“Very, very generous person. Every time I saw him, he was always smiling,” said Tim LaGrone, another friend of Nash’s at the Fieldhouse. “Even when he got drafted, a lot of people would change their character. But he was still the same person with a smile on his face.”