Even as tornadoes ravaged his home of Tupelo 120 miles away, University of Alabama swimmer John Servati gave his life in a tornado in Tuscaloosa, reportedly saving the life of his girlfriend.
Servati, 21, a junior swimmer and dean's list student at Alabama, died at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa after a retaining wall in the basement of his home collapsed, according to ESPN.
Carson Tinker, a former Riverside and Alabama player whose girlfriend died in the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado, quoted him on Twitter as saying, "The only thing in life worth chasing is the One who first chased us."
"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," another friend, Anna Rae Gwarjanski, tweeted. "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."
Serviati's death came three years and a day after a tornado in the area killed more than 50 people, and in the same system that has claimed at least two dozen other lives so far Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
"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 university 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."
According to Al.com, Servati was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member. He received his most recent honor just four days ago, and carried a 3.55 GPA in finance. He competed in three events at the 2013 SEC Championships.
Servati set multiple state records as he led his Tupelo High team to four consecutive Mississippi State championships. He was named the Tupelo Sports Council Athlete of the Year in 2007 and 2010.
Servati is survived by his parents, Janet Gaston and Albert Servati, and sisters Sarah and Catherine.