Former Bishop England tennis star dies at Wofford

Randall Heffron

Randall George Heffron Jr. was at the top of his game.

Following an outstanding career as a tennis star at Bishop England, he had just started his second year at Wofford on scholarship. His younger brother, Walker -- also a tennis standout -- had just joined him on campus. And this weekend his mother, Robin, had gone to the Upstate, where she planned to attend the Wofford-Clemson football game.

But on Friday night, Heffron was eating pizza in his Shipp Hall dorm when he started choking and headed for the bathroom. Friends followed closely behind him, but when they reached him he was already dead. His family calls it a "freak accident."

"It was a tragic choking accident," Robin Heffron told The Post and Courier Saturday evening. "He had just recently finished his freshman year and was looking forward to his sophomore year. He was a blessing as a brother and a blessing as a son. He will be missed by a lot of people."

Heffron, 20, lost his father to cancer when he was 3. Randy Heffron, who died at age 47, was a tennis star at The Citadel.

Randall Heffron, who lived near Daniel Island, focused his energies on the tennis court, where he showed amazing ability. He attended Mason Prep and then Bishop England, where he compiled a 75-8 record and helped the tennis team reach the state playoffs four times.

His athletic ability won him much attention. In 2010, The Post and Courier named him the area tennis player of the year.

"In this day and time when a lot of players are leaving high school to opt for computer school or home schooling so they can put more hours on the court, I chose the more conventional route of staying in high school," Heffron said in an interview then.

"I enjoyed my relationship with my teachers at Bishop England, and I credit them with helping me earn acceptance into Wofford College. My friends and teammates are really important to me, and I would have missed all of that."

Soon, Wofford took notice of his talent and gave him a scholarship.

"I'm excited to get up there (to Wofford). I've got to train and get ready for it," Randall Heffron said in a 2010 interview.

"Coach (Wofford's Rod) Ray is a nice guy. He jokes around with you. He works you hard, but at the same time looks out for you. Wofford was just a better fit (than Furman) and the place I felt I could contribute the most on the team. Tennis has given me a lot of people, a lot of connections. It is something I can do later in life. It got me into a pretty respected school (Wofford). Right now, (tennis) is a big part of my life."

His friends and family said Heffron was more than a gifted athlete, he was a friendly, compassionate and nice young man.

"He had a smile that lit up a room and he never met a stranger," his mother said.

Joan Walker, Heffron's grandmother, said "we will miss him terribly."

"He called me on Wednesday," Walker said Saturday. "I was driving down King Street, and when I picked up the phone he said, 'Hey Nana, I was just thinking about you.' It was out of the clear blue. He was just amazing."

Heffron was taken to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:11 a.m. Saturday. The Spartanburg County Coroner's Office has not issued a cause of death, pending results of standard toxicology tests and an autopsy.

Wofford President Benjamin Dunlap said that the "The Wofford campus family is saddened by this tragic and untimely death. Randall was well-loved and respected by his fellow tennis players, his friends and classmates. He will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies are with his family, especially his brother, Walker, a freshman here at Wofford."

Stuhr's will handle funeral arrangements, but those have not been set yet.

"He was a kind and compassionate young man. He had everything going for him," Joan Walker said. "He's with his father now."