1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam found dead in Colorado park
Foul play not suspected in death of 42-year-old former running back
Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam was found dead Monday night in a Boulder park less than two miles from Folsom Field, where he carved his name into the University of Colorado record books as one of the greatest players in the program's history.
The Boulder County coroner's office was still investigating the cause of the death of the 42-year-old Salaam, who won the Heisman in 1994. The body of the one-time running back was found at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder. Police say foul play was not suspected.
Salaam's mother, Khalada, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday that police said they suspect he killed himself. "They said they found a note and would share that with us when we get there," Salaam's mother said.
Salaam's death stunned the Colorado football community which this year celebrated a revival with a 10-3 record, an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game and the Buffaloes' first bowl bid in almost a decade.
"You talk about a young man who was smart, handsome, talented. He was very, very gifted. He was humble. He was a team guy," Bill McCartney, who coached Salaam from 1992-94, told The Associated Press.
McCartney remembered Salaam as a natural leader.
"His personality was infectious. He just had a warmth about him, a genuineness about him that was really contagious," McCartney said. "On the surface, he had everything. We thought he was a cut above, and he turned out to be."
Salaam rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior in 1994, leading the Buffaloes to an 11-1 record, a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 3 finish in the final polls. He won the Heisman in a runaway.
"I went to New York with him," McCartney recalled. "I was thrilled for him. I'm pretty sure he's the only Buff that ever got that award. When we recruited him we knew he was special. The entire time he was with us and he just kept getting better."
Salaam was one of the nation's most prized recruits coming out of eight-man football at La Jolla Country Day, a private school in San Diego. His father played freshman football at CU in 1963 before transferring to San Diego State to be closer to home.
"When we recruited him and got him to commit, it was huge," McCartney said. "We knew that he was going to distinguish himself. He was very highly recruited. I can remember how happy we were. He lived up to all our expectations. He was a tough kid, he was rugged, he had great acceleration, great athleticism."
The Chicago Bears made him a first-round draft pick in 1995, and he rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns in wining NFC rookie of the year honours.
Injuries cut short his career. He only scored three times in the next two years in Chicago and played his last NFL game with the Cleveland Browns in 1999 before retiring from football. He made a brief comeback with the Toronto Argos of the CFL in 2004.
He fell on hard times after that. In 2011 he auctioned his Heisman ring.
"I don't understand that," McCartney said. "You talk about a kid that on the surface had everything. He was a real handsome guy, he was intelligent, he was personable. You couldn't really point at him and see any deficiencies."