Unfortunately, the world of sports is full of those who have passed on at far too early an age. Many notables dot the scribe of the world beyond, including Hank Gathers, Davey Allison, Thurman Munson, Pelle Lindbergh, Len Bias, and Dale Earnhardt. Even retired athletes such as Reggie White and Pete Maravich passed before it seemed their time.
Football is notable for several early deaths that rocked the foundation of the game. We will review seven men who left a legacy in the world while making their journey through life in all too short a period of time.
The following all passed away before age 30.
NAME & POSITION COLLEGE YEAR & AGE CAUSE
7—KOREY STRINGER, OL OHIO STATE 2001—27 HEAT STROKE
6—PAT TILLMAN, S ARIZONA STATE 2004—27 SERVICE DEATH
5—SAL AUNESE, QB COLORADO 1989—21 CANCER
4— SEAN TAYLOR, S MIAMI 2007—24 MURDERED
3— BRIAN PICCOLO, RB WAKE FOREST 1970—26 CANCER
2— PAT TRAMMELL, QB ALABAMA 1968—28 CANCER
1— ERNIE DAVIS, RB SYRACUSE 1963—23 LEUKEMIA
Stringer and Taylor were two of the most popular and outstanding athletes of their time. The passing of Tillman, a great defender for many years, is a tragedy inside a tragedy. It is said Aunese is responsible for the rebirth of the Colorado program and was certainly one of the great Samoan players of the 20th century.
The sad story of the film Brian's Song details the great loss of Brian Piccolo (pictured above), who led the nation in rushing in 1964. On October 6, 1980, Bear Bryant, reflecting on his 300th win, stated in the Birmingham paper that "Pat Trammell was the favorite person in my entire life."
As for Ernie Davis, his Orangemen won the national championship in 1959, and he won the Heisman Trophy in 1961—the first black player to win the award. A film on his life is scheduled to be released later this year, honoring the man known as the "Elmira Express."