POMONA, Calif. (AP) -- Some teammates warmly remembered Rashidi Wheeler as the kind of prankster you couldn't get mad at. His coach recalled him as a hero.
In a 3 1/2-hour memorial service Monday at First Baptist Church, about 350 family members, friends and teammates paid tribute to the former Northwestern football player with songs, flowers, photographs, funny stories and poetry he wrote.
Afterward, Wheeler was buried at Forest Lawn Covina Hills.
The 22-year-old safety, a chronic asthmatic, died Aug. 3 after collapsing during practice.
"Even when things were hard he was always the one with the smile on his face," said Northwestern teammate Billy Silva.
Another teammate said that although he was a bit of a trickster -- Wheeler had earned the nickname "Bogusman" -- his upbeat attitude won everyone over.
Kevin Bentley said Wallace once kicked him out of his dorm room and made him go to an ATM at 10 p.m. to pay him back $2. But, Bentley said, "he had that big Kool-Aid smile, so you can't get mad at him."
Northwestern coach Randy Walker said simply: "Rashidi was my hero."
Although the senior struggled early in his college career, Walker recalled, he worked hard every day, earning a starting position in all 12 of the Wildcats games last year.
"He learned early and successfully in life that to be successful, he had to get a little better every day."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also spoke at the memorial, suggested Wheeler's death could bring changes to college football that will save lives for years to come.
"He's going to save thousands of young athletes," said Jackson, who is helping Wheeler's family conduct an investigation into his death.
"People are asking questions about pre-practice practices because of Rashidi, they're asking about unauthorized practices because of Rashidi, they're asking about Ultimate Orange because of Rashidi."
Although a medical examiner ruled in a preliminary report that the cause of death was bronchial asthma, it is still under investigation. Northwestern is also investigating reports that Wheeler and some of his teammates may have taken a popular dietary supplement called Ultimate Orange to increase their strength.
The substance, popular with athletes, contains ephedrine, which is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
A toxicology report, which will test for ephedrine, will not be completed for several weeks.
Wheeler's family said it wants to ensure the university focuses on the chaotic atmosphere that was said to ensue after Wheeler and others collapsed during a grueling summer conditioning drill.
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