Former Heisman Trophy winner and Chicago Bears‘ first-round pick Rashaan Salaam was found dead Monday night in Boulder, Colo.
He was 42. Boulder police told the University of Colorado there were no signs of foul play.
Salaam rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns in 1994, leading a vaunted Colorado team that also featured future NFL stars Kordell Stewart, Michael Westbrook and Christian Fauria. At the time, Salaam was just the fourth player in college football history to reach the 2,000-yard mark.
“He was very coachable,” former Colorado coach Bill McCartney said, via the school’s website. “He had a happy heart. I loved being around him. He didn’t take himself too seriously, and he always credited those around him, especially his offensive line. What I liked about him is that he had a sparkle in his eye. He was upbeat and positive.”
Added CU Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano: “This is a sad day for the entire university community as we mourn Rashaan’s death. Rashaan will be remembered as one of the greatest football players to ever wear a Buffs uniform, and his 1994 Heisman Trophy brought great prestige and honor to the university. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Selected with the No. 21 overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, Salaam captured NFC Rookie of the Year honors after rushing for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first season with the Bears. His pro career fizzled out shortly thereafter, as he managed just 608 yards combined over the next two seasons in Chicago.
Looking back on his career two years ago, Salaam acknowledged that poor off-the-fields habits contributed to his decline before he reached the age of 25. He harbored no ill feelings toward his former organization, though, telling Pro Football Weekly that he remained a staunch Bears fan.