A heart condition may be to blame for the tragic death of a young Simon Fraser University quarterback Wednesday.

Bernd Dittrich was rescued from the bottom of the campus pool Tuesday evening after losing consciousness during a lane swim. He died in hospital Wednesday morning.

SFU's head football coach, Dave Johnson, said hospital officials told him Dittrich had a previously undetected heart condition. The official cause of death has not been released.

Johnson said the popular 21-year-old Clan player was swimming to help heal an injured shoulder that had kept him on the sidelines their last two games.

Simon Fraser University's Athletics Department said Dittrich, known affectionately as 'Bernie,' was an inspiration to his teammates and well known for his enthusiasm and work effort.

"Our hearts go out to Bernd's family," SFU's Senior Director of Athletics, Dr. David Murphy, said.

"He was an enthusiastic leader, someone who was always willing to help out; just a terrific kid. The whole (SFU Athletics) department, not just the football team, is grieving."

Johnson added: "We have 94 guys in the locker room and Bernie was one of the leaders of that group. He is a kid who was a great example to our young guys, and a leader for our older guys."

Grew up loving football

Dittrich grew up in Vienna, Austria, where he first fell in love with American Football. Then playing for the Vienna Vikings team, he was coached for five years by SFU offensive coordinator Shawn Olson. It was Olson who recruited the young man to play football in British Columbia.

At age 17, Dittrich left Europe, moving to Oklahoma to play as both quarterback and linebacker for the Heavener Wolves during his senior year of high school.

He joined the SFU Clan football team in 2007 with a fellow Viking teammate.

Although he only played a minor role with the team his first year, Dittrich was named starting quarterback in 2008.

His first career start saw SFU rocket to their first victory in three years - a 24-10 win over UBC.

In an interview with CTV News, the science student choked back tears while describing how meaningful the win was, not just for himself, but also his coaches and teammates.

Dittrich is survived by his family in Austria. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.