Edward Aschoff, a beloved college football reporter for ESPN, died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 34.
"We are very sorry to have to share the devastating news of the tragic passing of friend and ESPN colleague Edward Aschoff," ESPN said in a statement. "He died earlier today, his 34th birthday. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, including his fiancée, Katy."
A talented storyteller, whether he was on camera or crafting a written piece, Aschoff joined ESPN in 2011 as part of the SEC blog network after covering recruiting and Florida football for The Gainesville Sun. A graduate of the University of Florida, Aschoff had a keen sense of humor and connected with many he crossed paths with, be it professionally or personally.
USC coach Clay Helton opened his news conference on Tuesday by offering his thoughts on Aschoff.
"Very, very sad," Helton said. "Very surprising. Wish nothing but the best for his family. Our condolences go out. He was nothing but first class to this organization and always to me. Ed, you'll be missed."
Aschoff was easy to spot in press boxes. Not only was he almost always the most dapperly dressed person there -- with a collection of quirky socks that made him the envy of those around him -- but his bright smile and radiant disposition always drew a crowd.
His witty picks columns in the SEC blog were must-reads, and he oftentimes poked fun at himself about everything from his cat, Meeko, to his love of soccer. He was an inaugural season-ticket holder for Atlanta United FC and was there to watch the team win its first MLS Cup in 2018.
Aschoff had a knack for gaining the trust of people to tell the most delicate of stories, including his final feature, on LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and his unique relationship with his father and stepfather.
Aschoff was equally tenacious when it came to tracking down news and taking an evenhanded look at some of the more polarizing subjects in college football. In 2016, Aschoff and fellow ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg won first place in the Football Writers Association of America writing contest in the enterprise category for their look at how race plays a role in college football, after several African American players confided in them about their experiences with race and racism on campus. Michael Weinreb, who served as a contest judge, called the reporting "eye-opening" and "surprisingly frank."
"Ed was one of the smartest, brightest reporters I've ever had the pleasure of working with," ESPN executive editor Lauren Reynolds said. "Watching him grow from our co-SEC reporter with Chris Low to a multiplatform national reporter was a treat. For as good of a reporter Ed was, he was an even better person. He always put people first -- those whose stories he told, and those who had the honor of working alongside him.
"The outpouring of love and support from those whose lives he touched has been overwhelming and is a testament to the light he brought to this world."
Universally loved by his ESPN colleagues, Aschoff was the life of the party on road trips and became a connoisseur of all the top restaurants and nightspots in college football locales. But his favorite lunch spot was Ajax Diner on the historic Square in Oxford, Mississippi.
In a tweet posted Tuesday night, ESPN senior vice president Rob King described Aschoff as "a ray of light."
"He smiled with his entire being, loved his fiancée and family, and brought joy to the job," King said in his tweet. "I hope you knew him, too."
Several of Aschoff's fellow college football reporters also took to social media to remember him.
Edward Aschoff was one of my closest friends. He was was one the most genuine, enthusiastic, personable people I've ever and he made the world a better place.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) December 25, 2019
Today is unspeakably sad and I'm devastated for Katy and his family.
Ed Aschoff is one of the best people I know. Talented, kind, fun, gracious and always positive. A great colleague and an even better friend. All of us are devastated and heartbroken. Just isn't fair. I love you, Ed, and will miss you. Prayers to Katy and Ed's family. https://t.co/jJQBE441Fv— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) December 25, 2019
Devastated about Ed Aschoff's passing. One of the kindest, warm-hearted people I've ever met. And, if you were lucky enough to have gotten to know him, there's no question you feel that way too.. God, he will be missed.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 25, 2019
Can't fathom the idea I won't get to see Ed Aschoff again. Can't fathom how this even happened. He was so damn young and so damn talented. This is a brutal loss.— Max Olson (@max_olson) December 25, 2019
Aschoff cut his teeth on SEC football while growing up in Oxford, where his father, the late Peter Aschoff, was a professor at Ole Miss. His mother, the late Patricia Aschoff, was a well-respected special education teacher in the Oxford School District. Aschoff always called her fried chicken and mac and cheese second-to-none.
Aschoff attended the University of Florida from 2004 to 2008, and he got an up-close view of powerhouse national championship Gators teams under Urban Meyer, helping cover the 2008 national title team for The Gainesville Sun.
Upon joining the ESPN staff, Aschoff moved to Atlanta and quickly became known as the ATL Kid. As Aschoff progressed in the media world, he took pride in helping younger journalists break into the business and was always there to counsel and guide them any way he could.
He moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to begin a more expanded national role that included television coverage. Over the past three seasons, Aschoff reported from campuses across the country for ESPN.com, SportsCenter, SEC Network and ESPN Radio, and he worked as a television and radio sideline reporter during college football games.
But Aschoff was more than just a college football fan. He loved sports, rooting for the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL, the Colorado Rockies in MLB and the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. He was able to watch the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in June at Oracle Arena, writing on his Instagram page, "I remember being a little nerd in the backseat of my parents' car when my dad told me that the new NBA team would be named after a dinosaur. I immediately disowned the Bulls (sorry mom) and have been rooting for the Toronto Raptors ever since."
Nothing got Aschoff more giddy than Godzilla, whom he grew up idolizing. He could hardly contain his excitement when he was cast as an extra in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," released in May, and then was able to attend the premiere in Los Angeles, where he got to meet a childhood hero, Kyle Chandler.
Aschoff and his fiancée, Katy, were set to be married in New Orleans in April. When Katy proposed to Edward last December, she gave him a Godzilla ring as she got down on one knee.