FERNIE, B.C. - There was an outpouring of grief from university football fans on Monday, after a former player for the University of Alberta Golden Bears died on the weekend.

RCMP say Rhys Coppens, 21, of Edmonton was found unconscious and unresponsive in an alley beside a night club in Fernie, B.C., early Sunday morning. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after.

Police said Coppens suffered "severe injuries" but the exact cause of death is unknown. They said there will be an autopsy later this week.

Coppens was a starting freshman defensive back for the Golden Bears in 2007.

After leaving the team he played for the Canadian Junior Football League's Vancouver Island Raiders for a season, and he was set to return to the university football league this season playing for the University of Calgary Dinos.

A blog on the CIS league website called him "a terror in the secondary" and said he will be missed, while the social networking site Twitter was awash with condolences.

Dinos coach Blake Nill, who had only known Coppens for three months, said he was excited to have him commit to the team but added that the football program was the furthest thing from his mind after hearing the sad news.

"We liked everything about him," he said. "But at this point our thoughts and prayers go out to the family who have lost an outstanding young man."

Coppens was in the resort town west of Calgary for the weekend with a ski tour group.

RCMP say there will be more information released following the autopsy later this week.