Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam was found dead Monday night in a Colorado park, NBC News reports. Salaam was only 42 years old.
Salaam’s body was found at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder, Colo., only 2 miles from Folsom Field, where he played as a running back for the University of Colorado. Local authorities say they do not suspect that foul play was involved.
According to CBS Denver, a gun and a note were recovered at the scene, but authorities have yet to release the content of the letter or an official cause of death.
Salaam’s friends told CBS Denver that the former football player had been distant before his death.
“He wouldn’t return text messages, calls … I think, obviously he was going through some stuff,” Salaam’s friend Joe Devereaux told the news outlet. “I wish he would have reached out to anybody, you know, because this is just awful.”
Salaam played for the University of Colorado from 1992 to 1994, winning the Heisman Trophy when he was a junior. During his final year at the Pacific 12 college, Salaam rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns, leading the Buffaloes to an 11-1 record and a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, CBS noted.
He was later drafted in the first round to the Chicago Bears in 1995, but his career was cut short a few years later after he was plagued with a series of injuries. And after he retired in 1999, he fell on hard times, having sold his Heisman ring in 2011.
Salaam’s death stunned the local football community and beyond.
“You talk about a young man who was smart, handsome, talented. He was very, very gifted. He was humble. He was a team guy,” his University of Colorado coach Bill McCartney recently told the Associated Press.
Former teammate Matt Russell said that Salaam was a “fiercely loyal friend” and the very “definition of a winner.”
“He practiced hard, he played hard and he made our teams better," Russell said. “My heart goes out to Rashaan's mother and his family. They have a lot to be proud of with the person that Rashaan was, the way he treated people and the friend he was to everyone he came across. He will be missed by so many.”