Running back Rashaan Salaam with the Heisman Trophy after being named the 60th winner of the award at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City on Dec. 10, 1994
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Former Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam committed suicide, ESPN reports.

Salaam's body was found Dec. 5 in Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder, Colo., less than a few blocks from the stadium where he starred as a running back for the University of Colorado. Salaam died from a gunshot wound to the head that the coroner ruled a suicide Thursday.


Salaam won the Heisman Trophy in 1994 and was picked in the first round of the 1995 draft, 21st overall, by the Chicago Bears, according to ESPN.

"Our guys walk by his trophy every day," Colorado Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre said Wednesday during a news conference, ESPN notes.


"There's flowers around it now, and it's something we notice every single day. … Every time I remember Rashaan, he always had a great smile. He was very, very humble. I really appreciate Rashaan and what he did for the program." The players will wear a decal with Salaam's initials and the No. 19 during Thursday night's Alamo Bowl.

A Boulder Police Department spokeswoman noted after the body was found that there were no signs of foul play, and Salaam's mother, Khalada, who found a suicide note, believed that Salaam had taken his own life.


The family declined to have Salaam tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a diagnosis that has been linked to the suicides of former NFL players such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. The family declined to have his brain tested because of their Muslim faith, which prohibits desecration of the body, ESPN reports.

Salaam had a breakout rookie season with the Bears, becoming the youngest player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. He was 21 years, 77 days old and rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns that season.


But injuries and fumbles damaged Salaam's career. In 1999 he admitted to using marijuana and noted that his pot use had affected his play on the field.

"It probably had me out there lackadaisical instead of going out there 100 percent," he told ESPN in an interview.


"Everybody thinks getting high is cool—you can let it go when you want to let it go," he said. "But it's just as potent as cocaine."

In 1998 Salaam admitted to the Bears that he was struggling with marijuana addiction and entered a rehabilitation program. He was cut by the Bears and out of football for a season before signing as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in 1999. The Raiders cut him, and he signed with the Cleveland Browns, where he played two games. He joined the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad later that same year.


In 2001 Salaam also briefly played for the Memphis Maniax in the experimental XFL.

"Salaam launched a comeback attempt in 2002 and was signed by the San Francisco 49ers in 2003, but he was released before the season. He was signed by the CFL's Toronto Argonauts in February 2004 but was suspended that May, ending his professional career," ESPN reports.


Read more at ESPN.

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