Remembering Jake Ehlinger

Carter Yates and Nathan Han

Jake Ehlinger, a sophomore linebacker and business major at The University of Texas and a former standout at Westlake High School, died Thursday. He was 20.

The Austin Police Department announced that Ehlinger was found dead near campus after authorities said they received a call Thursday afternoon. Police did not release any cause of death or any other details but said his death was “not considered suspicious.”  

Our hearts are truly broken, and we are just devastated today to learn of the passing of our Longhorn family member Jake Ehlinger,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “Jake was an amazing young man from an extraordinary family with such a bright future ahead of him. It’s just such a tragedy that we are all really struggling with.” 

Jake was inseparable with his older brother, former Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Both grew up as avid Texas football fans molded after their father, Ross Ehlinger, and his alumni status. Both had eventually realized their dreams of playing for the Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, where they had spent so much time with their family watching games as children. And both had bonded together through the shared struggle of their father passing away during a 2013 triathlon event.

“Sam taught me everything I know today,” Jake said to the Austin American-Statesman in October 2018. “He’s always been there for me and the whole family.”

He even began playing tackle football at the age of eight because he wanted to be like his older brother, the Statesman reported.

But Jake forged his own path to The University of Texas. As a linebacker at Westlake, Jake earned All-Central Texas honors his senior season in 2018, racking up a team-leading 97 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles.

Westlake head coach Todd Dodge called Jake “the quarterback of our defense,” as the linebacker helped lead the Chaparrals to an upset over Lake Travis, a team that included now-redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card and later went to the Class 6A state semifinals.

Jake stood out in the classroom at Westlake as well. Scoring a 35 on the ACT, he received offers to play college football at Ivy League schools Penn and Brown as a two-star recruit.

In the end, however, Jake chose to accept a preferred walk-on offer to play at Texas, ensuring that both Ehlinger boys who grew up with the dream of playing together in the burnt orange would turn it into a reality.

While Jake never played in a game for Texas, he suited up on the sidelines every Saturday to learn and develop as a linebacker with the upperclassmen. Coming into his sophomore season after utilizing a redshirt, Jake was looking to find a role on special teams and in the linebacking rotation as a reserve piece.

“Being a Longhorn meant everything to him, and he truly embodied all that it means to be one,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “In the short time we were able to get to know him, he always was a joy to be around and gave everything he had in workouts, meetings, practice and in life.”

Jake was right there for every one of Sam’s touchdowns as the quarterback competed in his junior and senior seasons. And he was also right there to see his older brother, “the best role model anyone could ever have,” get drafted to the NFL, joining in with his mother Jena and sister Morgen as the four Ehlingers embraced.