A Tennessee Titans football player has died aged just 25 after shooting himself while sitting in his car.
Wide receiver O.J. Murdock is the sixth NFL star to commit suicide in the last two years, a chilling trend which has sparked debate over the potential damage playing football can inflict on the brain.
The player was found in his car outside his old high school in Tampa, Florida around 8.30 on Monday morning, in critical condition after suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Doctors at Tampa General Hospital were unable to save him and he died just over two hours later.
Murdock had his whole life ahead of him, and faced the prospect of becoming a multi-millionaire through pursuing a sporting career.
At around 3.30am Murdock had sent a cryptic message to his Fort Hays State receivers coach Al McCray.
‘It was like, “Coach, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family,”‘ he told the Tampa Bay Times.
‘At the end of the text he said, “I apologise.” I figured he’s apologising because he texted me so early.’
Mr McCray said he had spoken to the 25-year-old just days before his death and that he had seemed in good spirits, excited about going to see his mother.
‘The people in Hays [Kansas], gosh, they love him so much,’ he added. ‘If he wanted to run for mayor, he would’ve won in a landslide.’
The coach continued: ‘Our homecoming game his senior year, the fire marshal calls our athletic director to say: “Listen, we can’t allow any more people to come into this game, we’re at capacity.” Our A.D. was like, “No, you’re not. Let em in.” That’s just the impact that kid had here.
‘It’s hard, it really is because he was such a good kid. He was lazy in the classroom in high school, and of course he messed up at South Carolina, but you’re talking about a kid who was on his mom’s couch for two years.
‘He got the grades he needed and he came up here and he had one dream, one goal: “I’m going to come out here and I’m going to play at a high level and I’ll get to the National Football League.” And the kid did it. He did it.’
The 25-year-old star, who was single at the time of his death, signed with the Titans a year ago but tragically never played a game for the team.
As a senior at Middleton High School in 2005, Murdock was rated the 10th-best wide receiver recruit in the nation by Rivals.com.
He signed with South Carolina, but played in only four games, making one catch, after redshirting his first season. He was arrested for shoplifting at a Florida department store during that 2006 season and suspended.
Murdock transferred to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi and then to Division II Fort Hays State in Kansas. As a senior in 2010, he had 60 catches for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns.
That earned him an invitation to the NFL scouting combine. After going undrafted, he was signed by the Titans last summer but spent the entire 2011 season on injured reserve after hurting his right Achilles early in training camp.
The standout high school player missed Titans practice twice over the weekend for ‘personal reasons’, but the club said they were stunned by his suicide.
In a statement they said: ‘We are shocked and saddened to hear of O.J. Murdock’s death this morning,’ the Titans said in a statement.
‘In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them.
‘He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year’s training camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy.’
Titans general manager Ruston Weber said: ‘We were concerned initially when O.J. didn’t report on the 27th. But we were able to make contact with him and he assured us everything was OK and he would be in here on Sunday. He didn’t make it on Sunday.’
Source: The Daily Mail