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Former NFL WR Charles Johnson Died by Suicide After Apparent Overdose

Erin WalshJanuary 10, 2023

1 Nov 1998:  Charles Johnson #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the game against the Tennessee Oilers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Oilers defeated the Steelers 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Tom Pidgeon  /Allsport
Tom Pidgeon

Former NFL wide receiver Charles Johnson died by suicide July 17 after overdosing on drugs, according to a report released by the North Carolina state medical examiner's office Monday, per Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today.

Johnson was found dead in a hotel room in Raleigh after his wife had reported him missing. Officers responded to a welfare check after Johnson had not checked out of the room and found him unresponsive on the bed.

The 50-year-old was pronounced dead on the scene. An autopsy revealed he had oxycodone, hydrocodone and mirtazapine in his system at the time of his death, though he had no active prescriptions, according to a query of the North Carolina Prescription Monitoring Service.

"In the previous week, he had been acting strange and had recently purchased a funeral and cremation service," the report obtained by USA Today stated.

Johnson spent nine seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills from 1994-2002. He won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2002 and racked up 4,606 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns during his career.

Years before his death, Johnson said he "suffered from brain, head, spine and neck injuries" from his time in the NFL, per Schrotenboer.

He filed a workers' compensation case against the Steelers in 2009, saying he suffered numerous injuries, including issues with his hearing, sleep and "neuro/psyche," according to records obtained by Schrotenboer.

Those records also indicated that Johnson was permanently disabled from football. The Steelers denied the claims, but the sides reached a $150,000 settlement in 2013.

The North Carolina native starred for Colorado during his college football days. The Steelers selected him in the first round of the 1994 NFL draft.


If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 for 24/7 access to a trained counselor. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting "HOME" to 741741. For more information about ongoing support and mental health resources, contact the HelpLine at the National Alliance on Mental Illness by calling 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or emailing info@nami.org.