Relatives say Hesakahi McCoy, 18, was found hanging in his dorm room Thursday evening.
The university immediately issued a statement, calling McCoy a "treasured member" of the Eagle family. As news broke, people took to social media to express their grief and surprise.
"This is not a child that would kill himself," said McCoy's mother, LaKasha Martin. "My son was very outgoing. He was just talking to me about how happy he was about college, playing football, having a college life. My son worked real hard to get to college."
McCoy was described as a popular, energetic freshman who had a promising future. He was a native of Columbia, South Carolina, where he was regarded as a successful student athlete in high school.
Martin says her son was the target of bullies on social media. While she suspects foul play, university leaders say they're unaware of any reports of bullying or complaints.
Miron Billingsley, the vice chancellor of student affairs, says he met McCoy last summer and talked to him daily since the start of the fall semester.
"At no time has he ever mentioned anything about bullying on this campus," said Billingsley. "He was a well-liked young man, very engaging, outgoing. We loved him and he loved us."
The Durham Police department is assisting campus police with the death investigation as is customary in these incidents.
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