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List of American football players who died during their careers

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This is a list of players of American football who died while still on a team roster. Included are players in professional and college football who have died of any cause. Players who ended their careers to join the military and died while in service are included. Each player is listed with the team to which he was assigned at the time of his death (or, in the case of military members, the last team for which they played before enlisting), rather than the team with which he spent most of his career. Players who were free agents at the time of their death are not listed.

Players who ended their careers to join the military[edit]

This table is only for players who ended their NFL career to join the military in a time of war, including players who were drafted into the military, and were killed in action.

Name Age Year
Position Team Last year
War served in
Mike Basca 27 1944 HB Philadelphia Eagles 1941 World War II
Charlie Behan 24 1945 End Detroit Lions 1942 World War II
Harry Benson 34 1943 G Philadelphia Eagles 1935 World War II
Keith Birlem 28 1943 End Washington Redskins 1939 World War II
Al Blozis 26 1945 OT New York Giants 1944 World War II
Young Bussey 27 1945 QB Chicago Bears 1945 World War II
Howard "Smiley" Johnson 28 1945 G Green Bay Packers 1941 World War II
Bob Kalsu 25 1970 G Buffalo Bills 1968 Vietnam War
Alex Ketzko 25 1944 T Detroit Lions 1943 World War II
Jack Lummus 29 1945 End New York Giants 1937 World War II
Don Steinbrunner 35 1967 T Cleveland Browns 1953 Vietnam War
Len Supulski 22 1943 End Philadelphia Eagles 1942 World War II
Pat Tillman 27 2004 S Arizona Cardinals 2001 War in Afghanistan
Don Wemple 27 1944 End Brooklyn Dodgers 1941 World War II
Chet Wetterlund 26 1944 HB Detroit Lions 1942 World War II
Waddy Young 28 1945 End Brooklyn Dodgers 1940 World War II
Dave Schreiner 24 1945 End Detroit Lions 1943 World War II

Arena Football League[edit]

  • Johnathan Goddard, 27, Colorado Crush, defensive end, motorcycle accident (2008)
  • Al Lucas, 26, Los Angeles Avengers, defensive tackle, in-game neck injury (2005)
  • Justin Skaggs, 28, Utah Blaze, quarterback, stage III oligodendroglioma brain cancer (2007)
  • Johnie Kirton, 26, San Jose SaberCats, running back, methadone toxicity/unknown (2012)
  • Julian Yearwood, 31, Bakersfield Blitz, fullback/linebacker, clogged arteries (2003)[1]
  • Chandler Williams, 27, Tampa Bay Storm, wide receiver, cardiac arrest (2013)

National Football League[edit]

Name Age Position Team Cause of death Year
Gaines Adams 26 DE Chicago Bears Cardiac arrest 2010
Jeff Alm 25 DT Houston Oilers Suicide 1993
Ralph Anderson 24 WR Los Angeles Chargers (AFL) Diabetic reaction 1960
Eric Andolsek 25 OG Detroit Lions Car accident 1992
Troy Archer 24 DE New York Giants Car accident 1979
Brad Beckman 24 TE Atlanta Falcons Car accident 1989
Jovan Belcher 25 LB Kansas City Chiefs Suicide 2012
Leon Bender 22 DT Oakland Raiders Seizure 1998
Jerome Brown 27 DT Philadelphia Eagles Car accident 1992
Jerry Brown 25 LB Dallas Cowboys Car accident 2012
Frank Buncom 29 LB Cincinnati Bengals (AFL) Blood clot 1969
Jeff Burkett 26 P Chicago Cardinals (NFL) Plane crash 1947
Brandon Burlsworth 22 G Indianapolis Colts Car accident 1999
J.V. Cain 28 TE St. Louis Cardinals Heart attack 1979
Marcus Cassel 23 CB Carolina Panthers Car accident 2006
Rusty Chambers 22 LB Miami Dolphins Car accident 1981
Kirk Collins 25 CB Los Angeles Rams Esophageal cancer 1984
Marquis Cooper 26 LB Oakland Raiders Presumed dead from boating accident, body never found 2009
David Croudip 30 DB Atlanta Falcons Drug overdose 1988
Rodney Culver 26 RB San Diego Chargers Plane crash 1996
Shane Curry 24 DE Indianapolis Colts Homicide 1992
Ernie Davis 23 RB Cleveland Browns Leukemia 1963†
Joe Delaney 24 RB Kansas City Chiefs Drowned 1983
Terry Dillon 22 DB Minnesota Vikings Drowned 1964
Jim Duncan 26 CB Baltimore Colts Suicide 1972
Bo Farrington 28 TE Chicago Bears Car accident 1964
Don Fleming 25 S Cleveland Browns Accidental electrocution 1963
Willie Galimore 29 RB Chicago Bears Car accident 1964
Blenda Gay 26 DE Philadelphia Eagles Homicide 1976
Howard Glenn 26 OG New York Titans (AFL) Neck injury (in-game) 1960
Larry Gordon 28 LB Miami Dolphins Heart attack 1983
David Griggs 28 LB San Diego Chargers Car accident 1995
Roger Hagberg 31 TE Oakland Raiders (AFL) Car accident 1970
Chris Henry 26 WR Cincinnati Bengals Road accident 2009
Thomas Herrion 23 G San Francisco 49ers Ischaemic heart disease 2005
Mack Lee Hill 25 FB Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) Pulmonary embolism 1965
Marquise Hill 24 DE New England Patriots Drowned 2007
Chuck Hughes 28 WR Detroit Lions Cardiac arrest (in-game) 1971
Edwin Jackson 26 LB Indianapolis Colts Car accident 2018
Stone Johnson 23 RB Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) Neck injury (in-game) 1963††
Mose Kelsch 38 K Pittsburgh Pirates Road accident 1935
Fred Lane 24 RB Carolina Panthers Homicide 2000
Bob Laraba 28 LB San Diego Chargers (AFL) Car accident 1962
Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb 31 DT Pittsburgh Steelers Drug overdose 1963
Stan Mauldin 27 T Chicago Cardinals Heart attack 1948
Kenny McKinley 23 WR Denver Broncos Suicide 2010
Bruce McLenna 26 FB Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) Highway accident 1968
O.J. Murdock 25 WR Tennessee Titans Suicide 2012
Damien Nash 24 RB Denver Broncos Cardiac failure 2007
Ralph Norwood 23 OT Atlanta Falcons Car accident 1989
David Overstreet 25 RB Miami Dolphins Car accident 1984
Brian Piccolo 26 FB Chicago Bears Cancer 1970
Ron Rector 24 RB Atlanta Falcons Motorcycle accident 1968
Lucien Reeberg 21 OT Detroit Lions Heart attack 1964
Don Rogers 23 FS Cleveland Browns Drug overdose 1986
Corey Smith 29 DE Detroit Lions Hypothermia, boating accident 2009
Dave Sparks 26 DT Washington Redskins Heart attack 1954
Andy Spiva 24 LB Atlanta Falcons Road accident 1979
Korey Stringer 27 OT Minnesota Vikings Heat stroke 2001
Sean Taylor 24 FS Washington Redskins Homicide 2007
Derrick Thomas 33 LB Kansas City Chiefs Pulmonary embolism 2000
Stacey Toran 27 DB Los Angeles Raiders Car accident 1989
Eric Turner 31 S Oakland Raiders Stomach cancer 2000
Tray Walker 23 CB Baltimore Ravens Motorcycle accident 2016
Fred Washington 23 DT Chicago Bears Car accident 1990
Dave Waymer 34 S Los Angeles Raiders Heart attack 1993
Darrent Williams 24 CB Denver Broncos Homicide 2007

† Davis was under contract when he died though did not play in a game due to his illness.
†† Johnson was injured in a pre-season game and did not play in a regular season game.

Canadian Football League[edit]

Name Age Position Team Cause of death Year
Mylan Hicks 23 DB Calgary Stampeders Homicide 2016
Joe McKnight 28 RB Saskatchewan Roughriders Homicide 2016
Derrell Robertson 27 DE Las Vegas Posse Automobile accident 1994
Adrian Robinson 25 LB Hamilton Tiger-Cats Suicide 2015
Ted Watkins 27 WR Hamilton Tiger-Cats Shot while robbing a liquor store 1968

Robertson was notable for being posthumously selected in a dispersal draft by the Ottawa Rough Riders, as nobody in the CFL was aware of his death at the time of his drafting.

Continental Football League[edit]

  • Glen Hepburn, 29, two-way end, Omaha Mustangs, injuries sustained during a game (1968)[2]


  • Donald Sellers, 26, WR, Las Vegas Outlaws, car accident (2001)
  • Troy Stark, 28, OL, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, complications from surgery (2001)


Player Age University Position Cause of death Year
Avery Atkins 20 University of Florida Cornerback Found dead in car 2007
Sal Aunese 21 University of Colorado Quarterback Stomach cancer 1989
Marlin Barnes 22 University of Miami Linebacker Homicide 1996
Heath Benedict 24 Newberry College Offensive tackle Enlarged heart 2008
Brook Berringer 22 University of Nebraska Quarterback Plane crash 1996
Mario Danelo 21 USC Kicker Fall from a cliff 2007
George Gipp 25 University of Notre Dame Strep throat infection and pneumonia 1920
Tyler Hilinski 21 Washington State University Quarterback Suicide 2018[3]
Jasper Howard 20 University of Connecticut Homicide (stabbed) 2009
Kosta Karageorge[4] 22 Ohio State Defensive lineman Suicide 2014
Jordan McNair 19 Maryland Offensive lineman Liver failure (caused by heatstroke) [5] 2018
Chucky Mullins 21 University of Mississippi Spinal cord injury after 1989 on-field collision 1991
Bryan Pata 22 University of Miami Homicide 2006
Joe Roth 21 University of California Berkeley Quarterback Melanoma 1977
Ron Settles 21 California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach State) Running back Found hanging in jail cell 1981
Wayne Souza 20 University of Wisconsin-Madison Flanker Drowned while swimming in Lake Monona 1979
Freddie Joe Steinmark 22 University of Texas at Austin Safety Osteosarcoma 1971
Jack Trice 21 Iowa State University In-game internal injuries suffered playing vs. the University of Minnesota 1923
Richard Von Albade Gammon 17 Georgia Fullback Concussion sustained during game vs. Virginia 1897

Team vehicle and plane accidents[edit]

  • Purdue: 14 members of football team were killed in a railroad collision (1903).
  • Northwestern Oklahoma A&M: 5 football players were killed in a head-on highway crash (1966).
  • Marshall: 37 members died in an airplane crash (1970).
  • Wichita State: most of the starting players and coaches, 31 in total, died in an airplane crash (1970).
  • Cal Poly Mustangs football team: 16 players and 6 others died in an airplane crash (1960).
  • Southwestern Oklahoma State: 4 football players were killed in a car accident.

See also[edit]

  • Sudden cardiac death of athletes


  1. "Clogged arteries killed player". The Tuscaloosa News. September 12, 2003. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  2. "Award Set Up in Memory of Player". Ironwood Daily Globe. Associated Press. May 21, 1969.
  3. "Police: Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski found dead in apparent suicide". ESPN.com.
  4. "Body identified as Kosta Karageorge". ESPN.com.
  5. "Maryland's Jordan McNair Died of Heatstroke According to OL's Family". Bleacherreport.com. Retrieved 11 August 2018.

This article "List of American football players who died during their careers" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical and/or the page Edithistory:List of American football players who died during their careers. Articles copied from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be seen on the Draft Namespace of Wikipedia and not main one.