SEATTLE - Local health advocate and youth mentor Willie Austin has died. He was 55.

Austin was a former Washington Husky football player and a world powerlifting champion. He ran a gym and mentoring program for young people in downtown Seattle.

Austin formed theAustin Foundationto provide youth with access to fitness and nutrition.

It got kids off the street, and put them in a safe place. He mentored them and it changed their life completely, said friend Bull Stewart.

In the past, Rick DuPree served on the board of the Austin Foundation.

It helped kids understand through fitness that they could change their lifestyle. It built self esteem. They saw their grades improve. It gave them hope, said DuPree.

Mark Bryant said he was among the many people inspired by Austin.

I loved the man and I miss him. I hope his family gets the blessings they need to get through this, said Bryant.

Faith Ireland, a Former Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, provided King 5 with this statement about Austin's passing:

Willie Austin was a major influence in my life and those of countless youth and adults. He helped me heal after 15 years of back pain, and inspired me to become an international competitive powerlifter. I was President of the Austin Foundation and saw up close how much he dedicated to at-risk youth. My heart goes out to his wife.

The cause and manner of Austin's death is still pending, according to the Medical Examiner's office.

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