We are sick of writing about football players’ avoidable deaths

Former University of Hawaii standout Colt Brennan died today. He was 37.
Former University of Hawaii standout Colt Brennan died today. He was 37.
Photo: Getty Images

For the third time since February, I’m writing about the death of a former football player from either suicide or substance abuse, and I’m sick of it. First it was Vincent Jackson, then Phillip Adams, now Colt Brennan. Three men, all dead at far too young an age.

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Brennan, the former University of Hawaii quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist, who broke all kinds of NCAA records, died today at 37 years old. According to his father, Brennan had been in a rehabilitation facility in California for five months, and that’s where he was found unconscious a few days ago. He was taken to Hoag Hospital in Newport, California, where he was surrounded by family members when he passed.

I can wax on about Brennan and give you quotes about how his family, friends, and former teammates will remember him. I can tell you about his big heart, and how he chose to forgo the NFL Draft after his 2007 season and return to University of Hawaii for one last year, and about how his team reached celebrity status in 2008, and about how his loved ones remember his smile and his passion and all the good times. Those things are important. He should undoubtedly be remembered for those things.

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But where the hell is the outrage? Why does this keep happening? Why do former football players keep ending up dead before their time? Why do these young men consistently wind up in battles with addiction and demons and darkness that we, as fans of the sport, either willingly ignore or don’t see once they are removed from the spotlight?

Aside from Brennan, here are some names of former NFL players that have died since 2019 in similar fashion:

  • Phillp Adams, 32, murder/suicide
  • Geno Hayes, 33, liver disease
  • Vincent Jackson, 38, liver disease
  • Louis Nix, 29, drowned with drugs/alcohol in system
  • Quentin McCord, 42, related to CTE
  • Charles Rogers, 38, liver failure

Many others from the NFL fraternity have passed during that time, and not including them in this group is not to discredit or exclude anyone from memoriam. However, these names represent a portion of the NFL body that died too young, battling demons that the game left them with. I’m sick of our athletes being discarded once they are no longer of entertainment value, just like the Roman gladiators. Our society treats these men like they owe us everything, at the expense of their own lives. They don’t.

You know what I don’t want to see anymore? Tweets like this:

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You’re saddened. Cool. One sentence. Nothing from the league. Nothing from the commissioner. Not even a “thoughts & prayers.”

The league will go on about its business as if the passing of another former player means nothing. As Ryan Leaf told me back in February:

I just don’t want my brothers to keep dying. That’s all I want. I don’t want anything from anybody, I just want my brothers to be able to live a full life and not be gone at 38 years old. You know, like a former Heisman Trophy winning running back, Rashaan Salaam, to be gone. People are living to 80, 90 years old. I have a 3-year-old boy, I want to be around as long as I can, and I want everyone else to. That’s my only plea here.

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Vincent Jackson was 38. Colt Brennan was 37. Swap the number in the above quote, and the sentiment is exactly the same. Leaf is tired of seeing his brothers disappearing. So am I. Take some damn action for once, NFL. Take some damn action for once, NCAA. Please. I don’t want to write this same article again next month.