Death is an everyday thing. We all try to avoid it, but some people just cannot escape its embrace. With all of us almost hitting the halfway point of 2010, I complied a list 13 athletes and 2 coaches who have been tragically taken from us in these last few years. As you read this, forget your past prejudices of these players being on rival teams, or old grudges for what this player did in a game, and just remember, respect, and honor the fallen these athletes.
Dying defending the ones you love. That is the way Sean Taylor went out. On November 26th, 2007, Sean Taylor was in his Miami home nursing a non-football related injury, when he suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his leg which damaged his femoral artery. Taylor was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital, but it was too late. He already lost a lot of blood and he remained in a coma. On November 27th at 3:30am, Sean Taylor passed on to the next life.
Sean Taylor was the 5th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, and made an immediate impact once put into the starting lineup, recording 4 interceptions as a rookie, and 12 in his career. Taylor was elected to the Pro Bowl twice in four years, and is now in the Redskins Ring of Fame.
In honor of Sean Taylor, on their first game back from his death, the Redskins lined up with only 10 people on defense leaving the free safety spot open, honoring their fallen friend and comrade.
April 1st, 1983 – November 27th, 2007
On New Year's day 2007, Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting. The shooting apparently preceded some altercation between Crip gang members and friends of Darrent Williams. Three people got shot in that drive by, two survived. Darrent Williams death is an example of how gangs can ruin the lives of countless numbers of people.
Williams was drafted in the 2nd round with the 56th pick overall by the Denver Broncos and showed a lot of potential in his only 2 seasons recording 6 interceptions and 2 touchdowns, as well as making a significant impact on special teams. If Williams was still alive, I believe by now, he would be resembling a Darrell Revis.
September 27, 1982 – January 1, 2007
On the 4th of July 2009 Steve McNair was found dead with his 20 year old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, in McNair's condominium. Both were found dead by fatal gunshots and this was later found out to be a murder-suicide.
Steve McNair was drafted with the 3rd overall pick in the 1st round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers and played 12 years, spending a majority of his career with the Oilers/Titans, and closed out his career with the Baltimore Ravens. McNair was elected to the Pro Bowl three times, and won Co-MVP in 2003 with Peyton Manning. Steve McNair finished his career with 174 TD's and currently holds the Tennessee Titans all-time passing record and even though his Titans came up one yard short in the Super Bowl, still holds the record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in the Super Bowl.
February 14th, 1973- July 4th, 2009
Without a doubt the most troubled individual on this list. Henry had a staggering previous Police record , having several arrests ranging from, DUI's to drug possession, to assault. However, it was all coming together. Chris Henry was significant part in the surprising run of the Cincinnati Bengals of 2009 before being sidelined with a broken arm. But bad habits tend to repeat themselves. Sadly Henry was engaged in a domestic dispute with his fiancee, Loleini Tonga, where he fell out of the bed of a truck and sustained fatal injuries. No charges have been filed, but neither has she been cleared by police. He was a troubled man, no doubt, but he was on his path to righteousness...its just too bad it ended too soon.
Chris Henry was a 3rd round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2005 NFL draft. He had a lot of natural talent and could stretch the field and make tough catches look easy, but his off the field issues, without a doubt effected him. If you took away all his off the field problems, he could have been in the top tier of receivers in the NFL.
May 17, 1983 – December 17, 2009
I have put these two together for one reason. They may have died, but at least they didn't die alone. Smith and Cooper were fishing on a boat as it capsized. They were announced missing on March 1st. After a few days, the Police called off the search and neither Cooper or Smith was ever to be found again. They were both presumed dead on March 6th.
Marquis Cooper was drafted by the Buccaneers in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft and played for 6 NFL teams including 3 stints in Pittsburgh with the Steelers.
Corey Smith was an undrafted free-agent and signed with the Buccaneers in 2002, and played with the 49ers and Lions as well.
COREY SMITH & MARQUIS COOPER
October 2, 1979 | March 11, 1982 – March 6, 2009
Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), a preexisting medical condition that nobody knew about. Had somebody knew about this, Gaines Adams could still be among us. On the morning of January 17th, 2010, Adams was found motionless on the floor by his girlfriend and taken to the hospital, and was announced dead at 8:21AM. Alcohol and marijuana were later found in his system but they were ruled irrelevant to his death.
Gaines Adams was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft with the 4th overall pick. After a lack of production in 2009, Gaines was traded to the Chicago Bears. He finished his career with 13.5 sacks and 2 interceptions in 4 seasons.
June 8, 1983 – January 17, 2010
After the September 11th attacks, Patrick Daniel Tillman decided to sport a different kind of uniform. Not the blood red uniform with a fierce Cardinal on the helmet like he wore for 3 seasons, but the uniform of dedication and honor. Pat Tillman decided to leave the NFL and a multimillion dollar contract, to go serve in the United States Army to protect our country which was under attack. He later served with the Army Rangers and took part in multiple combat tours, before eventually getting killed by friendly fire on April 22nd, 2004. However nothing is ever how it seems. Controversy surrounds his death. Brigadier General Gary M. Jones reported that senior Army commanders, including General John Abizaid knew of the fact that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion. Jones also reported that members of Tillman's unit attempted to burn his uniform in an effort to hide the fact it was friendly fire. But worse was possibly the fact that Tillman kept a journal and that was destroyed as well which is a complete violation of protocol. Several soldiers were punished by for their actions and were kicked out of the Army Rangers.
Pat Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 NFL Draft with a 7th round pick. He was the 226th pick overall. He stuck with the Cardinals his entire career and at one point rejected a 5 year contract for $9 million dollars offered by the St. Louis Rams. Both his jersey numbers #40 and #42, have been retired by the Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State Sun Devils, respectively.
November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004
On February 23rd, 2007, the NFL and Denver Broncos hearts dropped again as another teammate's life was lost. Nash was taking part in a celebrity charity basketball game for the Darris Nash Find A Heart Foundation, which raises funds for heart transplant research. Nash collapsed on the court and was taken to the hospital and later was pronounced dead.
Damien Nash was a 6th round pick out of Missouri and played for both the Titans and Broncos.
April 14, 1982 – February 24, 2007
Without a doubt one of the greatest linebackers to ever set foot on the gridiron. Derrick Thomas was feared from quarterbacks, coaches, and opposing fans alike during his long illustrious career and without a doubt goes with the all time best linebackers in NFL history along side Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus. On January 23rd, 2003, Thomas and 2 others attempted to drive to Kansas City International Airport through a snowstorm. After the crash one passenger died immediately, while the other who was wearing a seat-belt, survived with no injury. Thomas however, wasn't killed but seriously injured, being paralyzed from the chest down. Only 16 days later, Thomas would die when he was attempted to be transferred from his hospital bed to a wheelchair, due to a pulmonary embolism (a massive blood clot), that traveled to his lungs.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Thomas with the 4th pick in the 1989 NFL Draft and he turned out to be one of the greatest defensive players of all time. He currently ranks 12th on the all time sack list (126.5), has been elected to 9 consecutive Pro Bowls, made the NFL's All 90's Decade Team, and holds numerous Kansas City records including, sacks, safeties, forced fumbles etc. The highlight of Derrick Thomas's career came against the Seattle Seahawks on Veterans Day 1990, in which he sacked Seahawks quarterback, Dave Krieg, 7 times in one game, which is still a record that stands today, and in honor, his number, #58, has been retired.
January 1, 1967 – February 8, 2000
If any of us are to die, we probably hope it is in some heroic fashion, like giving your own life to save another, and this is exactly what Marquise Hill did. On May 27th, 2007, Hill and a friend Ashley Blazio fell of a jet-ski. Neither one was wearing floatation devices or tracking devices. Hill couldn't save himself but he "ended up saving her life, keeping her calm until she could grab onto a buoy.” He may have died but at least he saved the life of another, and I am sure that everyday of her life, her and her family thank Marquise for the ultimate sacrifice he made.
Hill was drafted by the Patriots in the 2nd round of the 2004 NFL Draft. While Hill would only get 3 tackles in his NFL career, he did get a ring when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX.
August 7, 1982 – May 28, 2007
Arguably the single greatest all around athlete in NFL history. Not only did Sammy play quarterback but he played defensive back and punter as well. While this one may have been inevitable, I mean after all he was 94, it's just hard to believe that such an iconic man in pro sports is now gone. But he will always be remembered for his versatility, toughness and skill.
When Sammy Baugh retired, he left the NFL owning 13 records in the three positions he played. Sammy Baugh had his jersey number retired , #33, and no he may be gone, but his place in history will forever be cemented in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
March 17, 1914 – December 17, 2008
Arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history died on December 26th, 2004. White suffered a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and that lead to his death. It was later identified that Reggie White suffered from sleep apnea (enough air cannot move into your lungs while you are sleeping), and that could have contributed to his death. White is buried at Glenwood Memorial Park, Mooresville, North Carolina.
Reggie White started his 15 year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, then later moved on to the Green Bay Packers, then finished his career with an short stint with the Carolina Panthers. Reggie White is 2nd on the all time sack list (198.5, only trailing Bruce Smith's 200 sacks), has made 13 Pro Bowls, won Defensive Player of the Year twice, won Super Bowl XXXI as a Packer, and his number, #92, was retired for both the Eagles and Packers.
December 19, 1961 – December 26, 2004
Arguably one of the greatest coaches who has ever lived was laid to rest on July 30th, 2007 after a long battle with Leukemia. In his honor, Candlestick Park was renamed Bill Walsh Field.
Bill Walsh will probably always be remembered as the legendary coach who had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young. Bill Walsh won 10 of 14 postseason games, 6 divisional titles, three NFC Championships, and three Super Bowls. Walsh was named Coach of the Year twice, in 1981 and 1984, and in 1993, he was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame and will always be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. His coaching record was 102-63-1.
November 30, 1931 – July 30, 2007
On January 29th, 2009, it was announced that Johnson was undergoing treatment for melanoma. Four months later on May 18th, 2009, Johnson announced that he would be taking a leave of absence due to the advancement of his cancer and on July 28th, 2009, the NFL lost possibly the greatest defensive coordinator in NFL history after his long and hard battle.
Jim Johnson will always be revered for his defensive genius in creating elaborate blitzes that always kept offenses off balance. In 2001, Johnson's defensive unit became the fourth team in NFL history to go all 16 regular season games without allowing more than 21 points. Their streak of allowing 21 or fewer in 34 straight games was second longest streak in NFL history. And in 1999, Jimmy Johnson's unit forced a league leading 46 turnovers, including a team-record 5 interceptions returned for touchdowns.
May 26, 1941 – July 28, 2009
If this article teaches us anything, it is that no matter how famous you are, what you accomplish, how much money you have, or how much talent you possess, death is something that can strike out of nowhere. So I leave you with all this advice. Live life for now, and live it happy, because it is too short to live in misery.