GEORGE MONTGOMERY, 43, running back with Arizona State, 1989-93, committed suicide by shooting himself at the end of July 2014 and was found to have CTE. He had also been in the Philadelphia Eagles organization and played a couple years in Europe. His mother, Denese, contends that Montgomery did not commit suicide: “My child wouldn’t kill himself.” On 7/31/14 hikers found his body floating face down in Beaver Creek in Yavapai County (AZ), whose medical examiner determined from an autopsy that Montgomery shot himself 3 times and sustained 4 wounds, 2 shots entering the heart. Investigators found a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the water, according to the police report. It had one hollow-point round in the chamber, but the five-round magazine was empty. Authorities tracked the gun to San Diego, where it had been reported stolen in 2011. A representative from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office told sheriff’s deputies that Montgomery had been investigated before and was the “main target” in a criminal case that had sprung from a $3 million Ponzi scheme.–“Mother seeks answers in son’s mysterious death”, The Arizona Republic 5/26/15, Matthew Casey. From USAtoday.com.
PHILLIP WATKINS, 23, defensive back with De Anza College (CA), 2012, was shot and killed outside his fiancee’s home by police on 2/11/15. Described as distraught and depressed by his family, Watkins made a 911 call reporting a home invasion by a male armed with a knife. San Jose police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol said Watkins stated he was locked in an upstairs bedroom with his children and requested help from police. Randol said Watkins was on the sidewalk in front of the home holding a knife with a 4-inch blade when 2 officers arrived, and ran at them in a threatening manner. Randol said Watkins refused the officers’ orders to stop and drop the knife, and continued to run toward them, prompting the shooting. Watkins was shot 9 times. The mother of his fiancée, Faye Buchanan, who also lives in the home and witnessed the shooting, described it as excessive, saying Watkins started “trotting” over to the officers when they fired. Buchanan’s daughter was also present. “We begged them to help him, not shoot him,” said Faye Buchanan, who questioned why the police didn’t try to use a stun gun, especially since she had called a suicide hotline earlier and was told by the operator police would be called in order to mobilize a suicide intervention. When asked if Watkins tried to bait the police into killing him, a phenomenon known as “suicide by cop,” Buchanan said she didn’t know. “I can’t speculate, but he wasn’t in his right mind when it took place.”—“San Jose cops kill man with knife”, SF Chronicle 2/13/15, Hamed Aleaziz & Vivian Ho. A picture within the article shows Watkins to be African American.
KOSTA KARAGEORGE, 22, senior defensive tackle with Ohio State, 2014, was found dead in a dumpster on campus on 11/30/14, having committed suicide by shooting himself (a handgun was found in the dumpster). He’d been missing for 4 days. According to his mother, Susan Karageorge, the walk-on had had several concussions and a few spells of being extremely confused. He’d texted her about 1:30 a.m. the day he went missing, apologizing and saying concussions had messed up his head. “I’m sorry if I’m an embarrassment.” He’d also complained of head pain at other times. Called “an important practice player” by head coach Urban Meyer, Karageorge appeared in only one game and was known for never missing practice. [ My Comment: Though OSU issued a statement that he was given medical care and proper protocol was followed, the fact that he never missed practice despite several concussions raises doubt, given that most medical professionals now recommend a minimum of 10 days on the sidelines with a strict reduction of mental activity to give the brain time to recuperate.]—“Missing Ohio State football player is found dead”, SF Chronicle 12/1/14, from AP.
JOHN GRIMSLEY, 45, linebacker with Houston and Miami, 1984-93, died on 2/6/08 of a gunshot wound to the chest, which police ruled an accident. He’d sustained 8 or 9 concussions and was the first player diagnosed with CTE by Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE).—“12 Athletes Leaving Brains to Concussion Study”, NY Times 9/23/08, Alan Schwarz. Same Grantland article by Leavey as above.
JUNIOR SEAU, 43, linebacker with San Diego, Miami and New England, 1990-2009, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest on 5/2/12. Though never diagnosed with a concussion, he had headaches and bouts of dizziness in his 20s, and divorced in 2002. After retirement the 1994 AFC Player of the Year and 8-time First Team All-Pro had insomnia, abused Ambien, drank heavily, made bad financial decisions and tried to gamble his way out of them in Las Vegas. “I’m addicted to everything.” On 10/18/10 he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence after an incident with a girlfriend, and, after posting bail, drove his car over a beachside cliff but somehow survived the crash. He was confirmed to have CTE.—“The Violent Life and Sudden Death of Junior Seau”, GQ 9/13, Nathaniel Penn. “Conclusions? Too Early”, SI 1/21/13, David Epstein.
ANDRE WATERS, 44, safety with Philadelphia and Arizona, 1984-95, committed suicide on 11/20/06 by shooting himself in the head. Known as one of the NFL’s hardest hitters, and nicknamed “Dirty Waters”, he was often fined for his tackles. According to relatives, he had suffered from depression for a long time, but would not seek professional help, though he recommended it for a relative. Post-mortem examination determined that the condition of his brain tissue would be expected in an 85 year-old man, and there were characteristics of someone being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.–“The mysterious death of Andre Waters”, Tampa Bay Times 12/11/06, Dave Scheiber. “Pathologist says Waters’ brain tissue had deteriorated”, ESPN.com 1/19/07, Tom Farrey referencing a NY Times story by Alan Schwarz.
DAVE DUERSON, 50, safety with Chicago, NY Giants and Arizona, 1983-93, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest on 2/17/11. Per texts to his family, he chose to shoot himself in the chest to preserve his brain for examination for CTE, which he would prove to have. In the months prior, the 2-time Super Bowl champion had expressed fears that he had the condition. The 1987 NFL Man of the Year and longtime activist in the NFL players union faced foreclosure and bankruptcy after the collapse of a business venture, and was in a legal fight over money with his ex-wife. He left behind 3 sons and a daughter.—“Tragic NFL star’s last wish could shed light on game’s risk”, The Independent 2/22/11, Stephen Foley.
SHANE DRONETT, 38, defensive lineman with Denver, Atlanta and Detroit, 1992-2002, shot himself to death on 1/21/09 after his wife, Chris, encountered him brandishing a gun in the hallway of their home and ran out the front door. In 2006 he woke up in the middle of the night screaming for his family to get out of the house because he thought someone was blowing it up. This was his first paranoid incident, and he also had episodes of confusion and rage that sometimes turned violent. While with his 16 year-old daughter at a burger joint, he got mad at an employee and punched him in the face for no apparent reason. When Dronett was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2007, Chris hoped its removal would return her once-affable husband, but his paranoia continued. He was later confirmed to have CTE, about which Chris knew nothing. Chris said her husband played through concussions because he knew NFL players are expendable, and suffered bad headaches, once saying, “I wish someone would split my head open with an axe and relieve the pressure.” It’s estimated that linemen endure about 1,000 hits to the head per season. Dronett played 10 seasons.–“Ex-Falcons lineman had brain disease linked to concussions”, CNN.com 4/1/11, Stephanie Smith.
BOBBY KEMP, 38, safety with Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, 1981-87, committed suicide on 2/7/98 by shooting himself in the chest in his North Hollywood home. Known as the Enforcer, Kemp often led with his head to tackle. Teammate Mike Martin tried to get him to stop because Kemp often came to the sideline woozy. “My head is hard enough to knock these guys down, and I’m not big enough to overpower them.” He confided to both of his wives–the second of whom, Inga Colbert, found his dead body–and best friend Douglas Aberg that when he was about 9 years old he found a gun, put it in his mouth and contemplated pulling the trigger. He also told Aberg, “I will not live to see the day when I’m 40 years old.” He reached the Super Bowl and ended up driving an ambulance.—“ONE TEAM, 25 YEARS ON”, SI 12/12/11, Peter King.
JEFFREY ALM, 25, defensive tackle with the Houston Oilers, 1990-93, committed suicide by shooting himself on 12/14/93 after driving drunk and crashing into a guardrail, which ejected his best friend, Sean Lynch, down an embankment to his death. Alm made a frantic 911 call saying, “…I have a buddy dying!” The operator heard 4 shots ring out, the last of which killed Alm. Lynch had a blood alcohol level of 0.30, 3 times the legal limit for drivers in Texas. Alm’s level was 0.14, and he had taken the barbiturate Fiorinal, commonly prescribed as a muscle relaxant and to relieve tension headaches.—“Alm’s Cry For Help : Football Player Made Frantic Call to 911 Before Fatally Shooting Himself”, LA Times from AP 12/23/93. “Officials Say Alm Was Intoxicated”, NY Times 1/6/94.