O.J. Murdock, who signed with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans last year, killed himself Monday morning in front of the Tampa, Florida, high school where he was a track and football star, reports the Associated Press.
Murdock, 25, never played a game in the NFL because he had been sidelined with an injury since signing as an undrafted player a year ago.
“In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them,” the Titans said in a statement. “He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year’s training camp.”
Titans head coach Mike Munchak, in his daily briefing with reporters Saturday, was asked why Murdock, a wide receiver, had not reported to training camp.
“He had some personal things come up,” Munchak said. “He called us, and we’re hoping to see him tonight.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy,” the team statement said.
Murdock did make a few communications before his death. Via the Tampa Bay Times, he texted his receivers coach at Fort Hays State, Al McCray, at 3:30 a.m.
“It was like, ‘Coach, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family.’ At the end of the text he said, ‘I apologize.’ I figured he’s apologizing because he texted me so early.”
A former high school coach also got a call. From TBO.com:
One of his former coaches at Memorial Middle Schoolreach, Aesha Bailey, spoke to Murdock by phone just before his death. She was the first to find him Monday morning in his car.
On the phone, “He just kept saying ‘I’m sorry, coach. I’m sorry,’” said Bailey, a former star athlete in the county before joining the teaching ranks. “That’s all he said.”
Bill Ward, a local sportswriter who covered Murdock in high school, got a text, too, at 6:03 a.m.
“Hey Mr Ward, it’s OJ Murdock…. I just want to thank u for everything you’ve done for me and my family. Can’t thank you enough.”
Ward replied to Murdock at 9:57 a.m.:
“Hi O.J. Thanks for those kind words. Are you recovered from the Achilles and back in camp with the (Titans)?”
Murdock did not respond.