Pulaski County (Ark.) County Coroner Gerome Hobbs said Petrus died Thursday night at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock. Petrus became ill after spending the day working at his parents’ towing business. He was taken to the hospital just before 9:00 pm and pronounced dead shortly before midnight. Hobbs said the official cause of death was heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool itself. The brain and other vital organs can be irreparably damaged. Much of the nation is in the midst of a life-threatening heat wave. A heat advisory was in effect for Arkansas Thursday as temperatures exceeded 90°F (32°C) with a heat index as high as 103°F (39°C).
Warning signs of heat-related illness could include headaches, dizziness, nausea, feeling confused, and loss of consciousness. Extreme dehydration is also present. According to Hobbs, Petrus (who was 6-foot-2, 350 pounds) did not appear to have any pre-existing conditions that could have contributed to his death.
“He was working at his family shop, outside…and suffered heat stroke,” Hobbs said. “He was drinking water but not enough electrolytes.”
Jonathan Mitchell Petrus was born May 11, 1987 in Carlisle, Ark. Despite setting an Arkansas state record for tackles as a high school linebacker, he wasn’t recruited by Division I schools. Rather than play at a Division II school, Petrus walked-on at the University of Arkansas as a fullback.
He was moved to offensive guard just before the 2007 season. Petrus started 12 games, blocking for the All-American tandem of future NFL running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Both McFadden and Jones rushed for more than 1,000 yards with McFadden ranked fourth in the nation (140.8 yards per game) and finishing as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
Petrus named to the All-SEC Second Team for his ’07 season. he was named All-SEC First Team by the conference’s coaches and All-SEC Second Team by the Associated Press in 2009. After graduating with a degree in agricultural economics, the Giants selected Petrus in the fifth-round (147th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Petrus spent two full seasons with the Giants (2010, 2011). He played in a total of 17 games for making three starts and played 55 snaps when the Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Petrus spent his final NFL season (2012) with the Giants, Patriots, and Tennessee Titans, starting one game for the Titans.
In total, Petrus played in 27 career NFL games: 23 for the Giants and two each with the Patriots and Titans.
At the conclusion of his playing career, Petrus returned to Arkansas. He worked as a studio analyst and sideline reporter for high school football games. He also served as chief of staff to state Sen. Jonathan Dismang during the Arkansas Legislature’s 2018 session. On Friday, Dismang remembered Petrus as “a perfect fit for that session” because of his “energy and how positive he was”.
Petrus described himself as a “bass player for my band Vikings of the North Atlantic” on his Twitter page.
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson said his family was close to Petrus.
“We are grieving the loss of Mitch Petrus, a close friend of our family, especially my son Alex,” Mortenson tweeted.
McFadden also remembered his college teammate.
“He’s a joy to be around, he’d put a smile on anybody’s face, brighten up any room he walks into,” McFadden said in an interview with KARK-TV in Little Rock. “He’s going to be missed a whole lot. It’s really tough. It’s really hard to swallow that news.”
Petrus’ Giants teammates, especially his fellow offensive linemen, were also saddened by the news.
Rich Seubert, who learned of Petrus’ death while working out with Shaun O’Hara, called him “a good teammate” and said “we had a lot of fun being friends”. Petrus had attended Seubert’s celebrity trap shoot event in Wisconsin this past April. Chris Snee, now a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars, was in Fayetteville, Ark. earlier this year reached out to Petrus. He was not in town but the two spoke on the phone.
“He said, ‘I can’t wait for the reunion” because I told him about the one I had for Super Bowl XLII,” Snee said in an interview with the New York Post Friday. “Our time was coming for the XLVI team. If there was a guy, one guy you hadn’t seen in a long time that you wanted to see again, he’d be at the top of my list. He’ll be on my mind probably that entire week.”
The Giants released a statement on Twitter: “We are saddened to hear of Mitch’s passing. Our thoughts go out to Mitch’s family and friends.”
Petrus’ death comes a little more than two weeks after the passing of former Giants quarterback Jared Lorenzen. Lorenzen, a backup on the Super Bowl XLVI team, died July 3 at age 38 of an infection brought on by heart and kidney issues.