Robert Tractor Traylor and 10 Athletes Who Died Way Too Young

Scott HowardContributor IMay 11, 2011

Robert Tractor Traylor and 10 Athletes Who Died Way Too Young

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    13 Dec 1997:  Center Robert Traylor of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during a game against the Duke Blue Devils at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Michigan won the game 81-73. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman  /Allsport
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    We're in the middle of the NBA and NHL playoffs, so excitement in the sports world is at a high point. But occasionally we are humbled and forced to put sports into perspective.

    By now you may have heard the news about former University of Michigan and NBA player Robert "Tractor" Traylor's untimely death.

    It comes on the heels of another tragic death, that of 26-year-old cyclist Wouter Weylandt, who was killed during competition earlier in the week.

    The tragedies remind us that athletes are, after all, human, and it gives us a chance to remember and reflect on other athletes who passed away too soon.

    You can take a look at a list of 50 athletes who died too young, but I've made a list of 10 recent athletes who were all still active when their lives were sadly cut short.

Nick Adenhart

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    TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25:  Pitcher Nick Adenhart #34 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim poses for a photo on picture day February 25, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    On April 8, 2009, Nick Adenhart made his season debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, pitching six shutout innings, allowing seven hits and three walks, while striking out five.

    Adenhart was one of the Angels' top prospects and was ready to make his mark on the league in his first full season.

    Unfortunately his season, and his life, were cut short. Later that same night, Adenhart, a passenger in a car heading home, was killed by a drunk driver.

    He was 22 years old.

Jason Collier

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    ATLANTA - MARCH 29:  Jason Collier #40 of the Atlanta Hawks runs during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Philips Arena on March 29, 2004 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Grizzlies won in double overtime 129-125.    NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    A big seven-footer who starred at Georgia Tech and later played for the Atlanta Hawks, Jason Collier had a heart that was too big for his own chest.

    After his death in 2005 from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Georgia's chief medical examiner confirmed that Collier's heart was at least one-and-a-half times the size of a regular heart and was too big even for a man of Collier's size.

    He was 28 years old.

Chris Henry

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    CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 27: Chris Henry #15 of the Cincinnati Bengals is pictured during the NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Bengals won 23-20.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Image
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Chris Henry was a sometimes troubled, always exciting young wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. He died of blunt force trauma to the head after falling out of the back of a pickup truck being driven by his fiancee after a domestic dispute in 2009.

    It was later revealed that he had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease often associated with concussions. The presence of the disease in Henry, who had never sustained a concussion, raised questions about whether the disease could develop simply as a result of the ordinary wear and tear of the game.

    He was 26 years old.

Cory Lidle

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    DETROIT - OCTOBER 06:  (FILE) Pitcher Cory Lidle #30 of the New York Yankees is seen during warm-ups prior to the start of Game Three of the 2006 American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers on October 6, 2006 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Mi
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Just four days after pitcher Cory Lidle and the New York Yankees were eliminated from the 2006 playoffs, Lidle and his flight instructor were killed when his Cirrus SR20 aircraft crashed into an apartment building in New York City.

    He was 34 years old.

Korey Stringer

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    1 Nov 1998:  Korey Stringer #77 of the Minnesota Vikings looking on during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers defeated the Vikings 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran  /Allsport
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Korey Stringer was an offensive lineman who starred at Ohio State before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1995.

    His best years in the league were clearly ahead of him when, just a year after making his first Pro Bowl, Stringer died of heat exhaustion during training camp in 2001. His No. 77 was later retired by the Vikings.

    He was 27 years old.

Sean Taylor

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    Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor leaves the field after his ejection in an NFL wild card playoff game January 7, 2006 in Tampa.  The Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  17 - 10. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    A cold, calculating, hard-hitting free safety, Sean Taylor was no-nonsense, rarely showboating after a big hit.

    In November 2007, an intruder burst into Taylor's bedroom and shot him in the upper leg. The bullet ruptured his femoral artery, and he went into a coma and died the next day.

    The following Sunday, Taylor's Redskins teammates played the first play of the game against the Buffalo Bills with only 10 men on the field, leaving the free safety position open in honor of Taylor.

    He was 24 years old.

Pat Tillman

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    TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 4: FILE PHOTO  Safety Pat Tillman #40 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during a game against the Oakland Raiders at the Sun Devil Stadium October 4 1998 in Tempe, Arizona. Tillman, a U.S. Army Ranger and former Arizona Cardinals stron
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Pat Tillman was a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who gave up millions of dollars to join the Army Rangers in 2002.

    Tillman was eventually deployed to Afghanistan, where, in 2004, he was killed by friendly fire. Tillman is remembered for his selflessness and patriotism.

    He was 27 years old.

Robert Traylor

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    24 Jun 1998: A picture of the 6th Pick Robert Traylor by the Dallas Mavericks who was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks during the NBA Draft at the General Motors Palace in Vancouver, Canada. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Robert Traylor earned the nickname "Tractor" for his unbelievable size and strength. At 6'8", 300 pounds, Traylor starred as a forward at the University of Michigan, where he became one of the top players in the country.

    His prowess at Michigan allowed him to be selected sixth overall by the Dallas Mavericks, who quickly traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Pat Garrity and a relatively unknown German prospect named Dirk Nowitzki.

    While Nowitzki went on to become the first European NBA MVP, Traylor struggled to find his place in the NBA, playing for three teams in seven years, and wound up playing in various leagues across the world.

    He was playing for the Vaqueros de Bayamon in Puerto Rico when he was found dead in his apartment on May 11, 2011. Initial reports say that he most likely died of a heart attack.

    He was 34 years old.

Wouter Weylandt

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    Cyclist Wouter Weylandt was an up-and-coming cyclist whose major professional accomplishment came in 2010, when he won the third stage of the Giro d'Italia.

    In 2011, at the same event, Weylandt lost control of his bike and suffered a horrible crash that resulted in his death.

    He was 26 years old.

Darrent Williams

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Cornerback Darrent Williams #27 of the Denver Broncos looks on against the Oakland Raiders at McAfee Coliseum on November 12, 2006 in Oakland, California. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 17-13. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Im
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Darrent Williams was a young cornerback for the Denver Broncos who was coming into his own in just his second season in the NFL.

    He was tragically shot and killed outside of a Denver nightclub early in the morning on New Year's Day in 2007.

    He was 24 years old.