SCOTT ROSS, 45, linebacker with New Orleans, 1991, and USC, 1987-90, died on 9/21/14 of extreme hypertension and alcohol poisoning, and was believed to have been dead 7-10 days in a car in a Louisiana church parking lot. Scott Ross was funny and magnetic, life of the party. His was the loudest voice on three Rose Bowl teams at USC, where he was Pac-10 defensive Player of the Year. When he met Laura Fitzgerald, his last girlfriend, he asked her to watch a movie with him. It was “North Dallas Forty,” adapted from Pete Gent’s book about carousing football players and their extreme ambivalence about their game. That, Ross told her, was his story. He was misdiagnosed. He was accepted at mental health facilities and turned away. He lost two marriages. He was drowned in a cascade of pain medication and alcohol. At the end, he was depressed and violent and slept almost around the clock, his parents, Marshall and Janie Ross, said. Todd Marinovich, the USC and NFL quarterback who has journeyed to, and returned from, his own inferno, said, “We’re just serving our youth up for brain damage.” During the course of his marriages Scott’s days of rage became more frequent. He had a degenerative hip problem and was taking highly addictive painkillers, and he was also diagnosed as bipolar, which required more medication. He had jobs, including a good one with 3M, and lost them. Dr. Frank Adams, a retired neurotherapist who was also a psychiatrist, said of Ross’ condition, “This was an extreme case. Dementia is a progressive disease that will eventually kill you.” At times Marshall would see Scott sitting on a curb, crying. At one point he had to break into Scott’s apartment and get him off the floor. “It’s like a dark cloud that’s coming,” Scott would say. “There’s pure evil going on in my head. I have to take a drink or a pill to stop it.” In an effort to help him, his parents took him back into their home. “He would be awake all night long,” Janie said. “He lived for that cellphone, would spend hours talking to his friends. Things would change quickly. One day USC was playing football on TV and he watched, seemed so happy. He was wound up, pacing the floor, yelling. First time we’d seen him happy in a long time. But then he would go berserk. We were afraid physically. I told people that Scott would never hit us…once he got me in a headlock. It scared the daylights out of me. There were nights I had to spend with my girlfriend. We had to ask him to leave.” There was the night Ross found himself on the roof of an apartment building, trying to get in. There was another night he was wearing only a raincoat, driving a tractor in the rain in San Luis Obispo. “He thought it was funny,” Janie said. “But he didn’t remember any of that. He didn’t remember getting physical with me.” Janie does not watch football anymore. Marshall does, with ambivalence.–“Football killed ex-USC LB Scott Ross; His family wants NFL to do more about concussions”, DailyNews.com 8/15/15, LA Daily News, Mark Whicker.
TONEY GRAHAM, 13, freshman with Granite City HS (IL), gasped for air and collapsed at a voluntary workout and died 2 hours later at a hospital on 6/17/15. At 6’4″ and over 300 pounds, he was already catching the attention of football scouts and was planning to skip freshman football and try out for the varsity team. Graham was known for his big personality and being the life of the party. The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, but the coroner found “evidence of cardiac disease,” according to the autopsy. Friends and family created a GoFundMe page to help Graham’s mother pay for his funeral.–“Granite City teen dies suddenly at football practice”, USAtodayhss.com 6/18/15, Casey Nolen, KSDK.
DOMINICK TREEMARCHI, 17, a football player with Central Valley HS (PA), died of a drug overdose on 12/7/14, 2 days before he was to play in a PIAA Class AAA championship game. He overdosed on prescription anti-anxiety medication and heroin. Authorities allege that a mother and daughter sold Treemarchi 17 Xanax pills, but they aren’t charged with having caused his death. However, two 18-year-olds who were with Treemarchi when he overdosed are charged with involuntary manslaughter and other counts in the case.–“Mother, daughter charged in Pa. football star’s OD death”, PennLive.com 6/10/15, John Luciew.
CHUCK EVANS, 41, running back with Minnesota and the Baltimore Ravens, 1993-2000, died on 10/12/08 of heart failure. His widow, Etopia, has joined a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that Evans developed an addiction to painkillers as a result of his football career. The lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 former players alleges teams pressured injured players to take painkillers illegally administered by team physicians without proper prescriptions and with minimal–if any–explanation of risk. Players were pressured to take the painkillers or be cut. “Each and every player we’ve spoken to discusses being pumped up with medications without warnings, without prescriptions, without examination,” said Steve Silverman, an attorney who is suing the franchises, including the Baltimore Ravens. “Many players are suffering from heart disease and all types of other ailments as a result of the cocktailing of medications. The body can’t process these medications.” The lawsuit aims to provide compensation, medical screening and health insurance for the former players.–“Widow Of Former Ravens Player A Part Of New Lawsuit Against NFL Teams”, CBSlocal.com 5/22/15, Mary Bubala of WJZ.
RICK VIDA Jr, 14, freshman with Frankton HS (IN), collapsed after practice on 8/23/83 and died soon afterward. The Madison County Coroner, John Noffze, said that the player’s heart was nearly 3 times its normal size when he died.–“PLAYER DIED OF ENLARGED HEART”, NY Times 8/25/83.
MICHAEL BARBIERI, 16, junior with North Shore HS in Long Island, NY, collapsed and died at football practice on 8/23/83 of an abnormally enlarged heart. Such a condition would be detected by X-ray or an EKG but would not necessarily be evident from a routine examination with a stethoscope, according to medical authorities. A Nassau County medical examiner said Barbieri should have never played. Barbieri, who had never before tried out for the school’s football team, received a preseason examination about two weeks prior, according to Murray Hoffinger, assistant superintendent of the North Shore schools. ”It’s a routine physical with a stethoscope,” said Hoffinger. “There is no X-ray or EKG. I don’t know of any school that does anything beyond the stethoscope.”–“PLAYER DIED OF ENLARGED HEART”, NY Times 8/25/83.
RICK LUCIANO, 17, senior with Fulton HS (NY), complained of chest pains during the fourth quarter of a game in North Syracuse in 1977 and was checked by a paramedic at the game. He was released to his family and transported to an area hospital, where he was stricken and died.–NewYorkSportswriters.org 3/16/15.
TORRANCE WRIGHT Jr, 17, lineman with Franklin HS (NY), collapsed and died during a 4-team scrimmage in Livonia the week before the start of the 1999 season.–NewYorkSportswriters.org 3/16/15.
JAMES ARLINE, 17, senior linebacker with Newburgh Free Academy, fell ill shortly after an October 1992 road game and died of a stroke. It was uncertain whether it was related to a blow suffered in the game.–NewYorkSportswriters.org 3/16/15.
JASON BRYNGELSON, 19, offensive and defensive lineman with Westview HS (OR), died on 2/22/10 after suffering a seizure. February 22nd was the day he was supposed to sign the final paperwork to enter the U.S. Army. He loved football and played about 8 years, often coming home with so many cuts and bruises that his mother was afraid to go out in public with him for fear that people might think she was abusing him. On the way to his first high school game, he said, “Tonight I get to play under the lights, if after the game I die I would be complete and happy.” He was a giving person with a gift for making people laugh. Bryngelson wanted to be an organ donor, but multiple organ failure prevented that. His parents said he would want to do anything he could to make football safer and donated his brain to the Sports Legacy Institute for analysis at Boston University.–“Jason Bryngelson”, Sports Legacy Institute 5/14/15 memorial written by his parents.