Florida teacher and coach jumps to his death off Sunshine Skyway bridge

August 26, 2013 

A Land O' Lakes High School teacher and coach died Monday in an apparent suicide jump from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to authorities.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said William J. Schmitz, 59, of Land O' Lakes drove his 2010 Kia to the center span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge around 5 a.m. He left his vehicle and jumped over the side of the railing, a news release said.

Schmitz's body was recovered about four hours later, deputies said.

Schmitz was a college head football coach at Austin Peay and an assistant at Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Alabama-Birmingham before becoming head coach at Tampa Jesuit in 2003. He led the Tigers to the 2004 Class 3A region final.

At Land O' Lakes, Schmitz taught history and coached the boys' track team. He was not on the football staff this season, but had been offensive coordinator for the Gators in 2011 and 2012.

Land O' Lakes players were already expressing their grief on Twitter, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"I want to say RIP to one of my past coaches Bill Schmitz he taught me everything I know about the game of football and being a better person," junior Kamal Wells wrote.

"RIP Schmitz. Hands down one of the best guys I've ever met. These tears suck man. #InShock ... Im plahying thi sseason for you #RIP," senior Shaheed Salmon tweeted.