Athletes are widely known to be big, strong and powerful. While that's true in the majority of life-related cases, there are some athletes who didn't get the chance to live their lives as long as they could. Just like the deaths of other folks, the emotional and sometimes physical wounds usually takes a toll on the survivors whether they happen to be friends, family or even fans of the player and/or team. This just goes to show that you can be one of the most fit and healthiest people on the planet, yet you still can succumb to tragedy, in various forms.
Athletes are prepared for just about anything ranging from trick plays to pesky injuries to weather changes, but you can best believe that no one has game plans for a sudden passing of an athlete. That's one of the life events that you can't prepare for ahead of time. So yeah, it's just extremely sad that some athletes passed away and never got the chance to show the world their full potential, but look, life can be cruel sometimes and all you can do is look back at the life you had before things took a turn for the worse.
Let's take a closer look at some late athletes who became the tragic subjects of folks who have unexpectedly passed in their prime, or at least well before they should've. In memoriam: 25 forgotten athletes that have passed away since 2010.
25 Edwin Jackson (2018)
Yeah, the passing of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson is fairly new as it occurred in the early hours of a Sunday morning in February, but the 26-year-old wasn't much of a well-known LB in the NFL.
Jackson was just a kid from Atlanta, Georgia, who attended his nearby high school of Westlake High School and made the football team at Georgia Southern University as a walk-on.
He had 10 tackles and witnessed action in 13 games during his freshman season and was later voted team captain by his teammates after recording a career-high 100 tackles in his senior year. In addition, he was nominated for two awards—the Burlsworth Trophy and the Wuerffel Trophy—before signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He then spent two seasons with the Colts, who placed him on injured reserve on September 2, 2017.
Jackson and his Uber driver were struck by a car while pulled over on the shoulder of the road, as Jackson had asked his driver to pull over after feeling ill.
Nothing much has been done since that day, but the Colts expressed their thoughts on Jackson, saying, "Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization...We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hardworking mentality. He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization."
24 Aaron Hernandez (2017)
Well, you might not have forgotten about what happened to former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, but you probably forgot about the stellar career he once had because most of his NFL days were centered on his court appearances and sentences he was facing at the time of his passing.
Various sources have reported that Hernandez suffered what looked like the most severe CTE ever found in a person his age and that appears to be on the defensive side.
Ann McKee, the head of Boston University's CTE Center, said, "We know that that's a risk factor for neurogenerative disease...Whether or not that contributed in this case is speculative. It may explain some of his susceptibility to this disease."
Hernandez's actions and passing last year will likely serve as yet another reminder for a long time over just how devastating CTE can be.
McKee went on to say in her analysis: "In this age group, he's clearly at the severe end of the spectrum," McKee said. "There is a concern that we're seeing accelerated disease in young athletes. Whether or not that's because they're playing more aggressively or if they're starting at younger ages, we don't know. But we are seeing ravages of this disease, in this specific example, of a young person."
23 Oscar Taveras (2014)
St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Oscar Taveras could've been playing in the 2014 World Series, but even if his team managed to get past their minor rival the San Francisco Giants, they still wouldn't see him on the postseason roster because he already passed away.
In case you already forgot, Taveras was a rising 22-year-old star in the Cardinals organization, but he and his 18-year-old girlfriend died as the result of a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Descriptive details weren't immediately released to the general public, but it was later reported that Taveras was intoxicated with a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit in his home country. This shocking story generated a decent amount of controversy on social media, but the Cardinals honored the Dominican-Canadian RF with a custom-made patch on their uniforms anyway, which didn't sit well with many fans, who debated on Twitter about how he might've intended to kill his girl.
"All of us throughout Major League Baseball are in mourning this evening, shocked by the heartbreaking news," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement released by the league. "We play Game 5 of the 2014 World Series in the memory of these two young people."
22 Jose Fernandez (2016)
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was another rising MLB star who was gone too soon. The 24-year-old was also expecting a baby girl with his girlfriend at the time of his death, which was caused by a fatal boating accident in Miami Beach, Florida. Local officials found the boat, which was reportedly called "Kaught Looking" and later confirmed that Fernandez was operating the boat "in a reckless manner, at an extremely high rate of speed, in the darkness of night, in an area with known navigational hazards such as rock jetties and channel markers."
Fernandez was one of those guys who had a future with endless possibilities ahead of him.
It's just that his life was cut short due to an unfortunate accident, which surely left scars for his girlfriend and their soon-to-be delivered daughter, who will never get the chance to meet her biological father.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Maria Arias said, “He loved her from the moment she was conceived...Everyone knew how excited he was to be a dad, he made sure of it.”
Arias added, "I kept a piece of his clothing since he passed that I sleep with every night, and I took it with me. I had it around my neck the whole time. So, when they put her on top of me it was kind of like both of us being present."
21 Yordano Ventura (2017)
On the topic of starting pitchers, Yordano Ventura was another starter who was best known as a power pitcher with a 102 mph fastball. He was a 2015 World Series champion with the Kansas City Royals.
Ventura was truly a story of a kid in the Dominican Republic who went from rags to riches as he quit high school in his freshman year, worked as a construction worker and then joined a Royals academy. He later signed with the Royals as an international free agent and received a $28000 signing bonus. He finally made his MLB debut with the Royals on September 17, 2013, and after three starts in Kansas City, he had a 3.52 ERA.
It was definitely a tragic story when Ventura reportedly lost control of his Jeep Wrangler on January 22, 2017, which flipped over when he tried to make a turn on a curved road. There's no guidebook that showed the Royals how to mourn a teammate's passing, but they learned how to cope with the depressing news in other ways like looking up videos of him just to hear his voice.
“The grieving process is different for everybody,” Royals manager Ned Yost told The Kansas City Star. “And you can’t deny them or try to cut short their process. Everybody deals with it differently.”
20 Andy Irons (2010)
Andy Irons was the only surfer to have won a title at every single venue on the Association of Surfing Professionals' calendar. In the wake of his death, the Governor of Hawaii declared February 13 of each year as "Andy Iron's Day."
Irons, of course, was born and raised in Hawaii, where he learned how to surf on the dangerous and shallow reefs of the North Shore in Kauai, HI. He went on to win three World Surf League titles, three Quicksilver Pro France titles, two Rip Curl Pro Search titles and 20 Elite Tour victories over the course of his career.
On October 2, 2010, Irons was found lying in his bed with the sheets pulled up to his chin in his hotel room after two staff members claimed that he failed to respond to their knocks on the door. The coroner's office confirmed that Irons passed of a cardiac arrest due to a severe blockage of an artery to the heart.
Rival surfer Kelly Slater decided to dedicate his November 6, 2010, victory to Irons, asserting, "I just want to send my condolences to Andy's family...I'm a little overwhelmed right now but I want to dedicate this to Andy...It's like exact opposites. This doesn't really offset that, I'd give this title away in a second if Andy could come back."
19 Kenny McKinley (2010)
Kenny McKinley was a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, who selected him with the 141st overall pick in the 5th round of the 2009 NFL Draft. In the 2009 NFL season, he played in eight games as a kick returner and returned seven kicks for 158 yards. He also recorded three special teams tackles. He was placed on injured reserve in December 2009.He previously played college football at the University of South Carolina, where he passed for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior year. As a result, he was ranked as the 29th-best player in Georgia and the 54th best athlete in the nation.
The Arapahoe County Sherrif's department released a full report on the nature of McKinley's passing, which can be found here.
Former Broncos head coach and current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said in a statement, "Kenny had a promising future on the football field, but more importantly, he was a great teammate whose smile and personality could light up the room. This is a tragic loss for our football team, and his family is in all of our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
18 Matty Alou (2011)
Baseball is chock full of legends and the Alou brothers were indeed a group of legends.
In case you didn't know, the Alou brothers consisted of Felipe, Jesus and Matty Alou. You might've guessed that Matty was the youngest one out of the trio, which is true because he probably wouldn't be the first name that would come to your mind if someone brought up the Alou brothers in a casual conversation in a public or private location.
Matty spent five years with the San Francisco Giants, where he was pretty much a platoon player; but his most memorable moment came when his pinch-hit bunt single sparked a rally that helped the Giants win the game and the National League pennant in 1962. The late outfielder (1938-2011) then played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Taiheiyo Club Lions. He retired in 1976 and concluded his MLB career as a 1972 World Series champion, two-time MLB All-Star and a 1966 NL Batting champion.
According to his former team Leones del Escogido, Matty died from diabetes complications in the Dominican Republic after battling various diseases for several years prior to his death. He was 72 years old.
17 Dan Wheldon (2011)
If you're interested in auto racing, you'll likely pay close attention to this entry because Dan Wheldon would be a driver who might cause you to remember a part of the past.
Wheldon may not be a household name, but let us enlighten you that he was a British-born driver who was the 2005 IndyCar Series champion and a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner (2005, 2011). As you should already know, racing can be a really dangerous sport and it took the life of Wheldon, who passed away from severe head injuries following a collision during the IZOD IndyCar World Championship in Las Vegas on October 16, 2011. He was 33 years old at the time.
Just days after Wheldon's fatal crash, the IndyCar organization issued a statement saying that they'd no longer race in Las Vegas. Additional changes were made as a sign saying "Dan Wheldon Way" was placed at the corner of Bayshore Drive and Albert Whitted Park where the late driver made the deadly pass with nine laps remaining in the inaugural IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Brent Brush (motorsport publicist) placed a "Dan Wheldon Memorial" plaque outside of Turn 2 in memory of Wheldon, a promising driver who had lots in store for the future.
16 Jovan Belcher (2012)
CTE (and post concussion syndrome, for that matter) can truly take a toll on a football player and his family members, if any.
That was the unfortunate case for Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Of course, the Chiefs organization had great difficulty erasing the tragedy from their minds, but we're pretty sure that they've been seeking help off the field for their personal struggles.
According to Belcher's girlfriend Kasandra Perkins' relatives, her relationship with Belcher was strained even though the couple had a three-month-old daughter named Zoey.
A cousin of Perkins told Newsday, "There was just a lot going on. She was stressed. He was stressed...It just started to go bad, but they had the child, and they were trying to make it work."
Understandably, many were shocked to find out the nature of Belcher's final actions. His Chiefs teammate at the time, Thomas Jones, was taken aback.
“Jovan was my friend,” says Thomas Jones, former Chiefs running back. “I loved him, and I wish I could have helped him work through the demons. But what he did was a horrible, horrible act. There’s no getting around that.”
Perhaps Brady Quinn said it best following the tragedy: "Hopefully, people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis."
15 Junior Seau (2012)
San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau was another man who suffered from CTE.
Seau, a native of Oceanside, California, played college football at the University of Southern California and was later selected fifth overall by the Chargers in the 1990 NFL Draft. So it's safe to say that he was a total SoCal guy, but he was far from chill since he reportedly suffered concussions during his career.
The Seau family filed a lawsuit against the NFL for the brain injuries their late father sustained over the course of his career.
As a result, the former doctor who worked with Seau received a four-year probation for gross negligence and was no longer allowed to prescribe Ambien to his patients.
Hopefully, the Seau family is able to find peace, but it will always be tough. There's one member of the family trying to carry on the family name, as Ian Seau, Junior's nephew is getting a tryout at minicamp with the New York Giants:
"It's hard to live up to," said Seau in a report by John Healy of the New York Daily News. "He is my uncle, there is always going to be these expectations but I feel like what I've done, when I've played snaps in preseason I've done some things that Ian Seau has done."
14 Sean Murphy (2016)
The Oakland Athletics may be an irrelevant baseball team that not many people pay attention to unless they're A's fans and/or A's media members. But it was a tough pill for many people to swallow when A's minor leaguer Sean Murphy died at the young age of 27 on September 21, 2016, due to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—the same heart condition that took the life of former A's pitcher Joe Kennedy in 2007.
Even though he wasn't the man of the hour, Murphy was a favorite among the A's players. When catcher Stephen Vogt was in Oakland, he had only good things to say about Murphy and told SFGate, "Sean was a competitor, a guy who wanted to pitch, wanted the ball in his hand. So much tenacity, he always gave you everything he had, and he was a fun guy in the clubhouse, always happy, always smiling, always in a good mood.”
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common condition that usually goes undiagnosed. Murphy's father told the East Bay Times, "It’s the same disease my brother died of. And he was a younger man, too."
Murphy's father commented on the coroner's report ruling out of foul play, saying, "It’s somewhat of a relief, but it doesn’t really change anything...He’s still gone, and his mother and I miss him every day.”
13 Derek Boogaard (2011)
Derek Boogaard, was often called "The Boogeyman" for his fighting skills on the ice. That being said, the late NHL player was best known for being a fighter and enforce over the course of his six-year career in the league up until his death on May 13, 2o11. He was 28 years old and his life was cut short due to an accidental drug and alcohol overdose during the concussion recovery process.
According to a posthumous exam, Boogaard had advanced CTE like several former hockey enforcers who passed away. Those three passings triggered countless debates in the hockey community, who all discussed enforcers and their places in the game they know and love. In addition, Boogaard's parents filed lawsuits against the NHL along with its NHLPA over their son's premature passing.
In the end, the son of former NHL defenseman Gerry Hart, Jordan Hart was charged in the conspiracy to supply Boogaard with the painkillers he used and subsequently received a one-year probation along with 100 hours of community service.
It's a sad fact that Boogaard was another athlete whose life was claimed by a traumatic brain injury, but there's still no definite cure to treat TBI patients. Life is rough.
12 Robert Traylor (2011)
Robert Traylor, who was often known as "Tractor," was another athlete who passed away on May 11, 2011. The former power forward and center died of a heart attack at the age of 34 in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. He was on the phone with his wife in the moments leading up to his unexpected passing after the signal was lost out of the blue.
Traylor's former coach Paul Silas reacted to the unforeseen death, telling Cleveland.com, "He was one of my special players that I really admired...We just texted each other about two weeks ago. I remember once how he stepped up for me in Cleveland when he told the other players they were wrong in the way they were going at me. It was a blessing to know him, to be around him and to be a close friend."
Also, Traylor's teammate Ira Newbie told Cleveland.com, "This was totally unexpected...He was in good shape. He slimmed down. He was no longer overweight. He had that heart condition, but it's been five years since that surgery and you'd think he'd be past that...It's so sad to see a consummate teammate and a good brother leave this earth."
Traylor was a former sixth overall pick of the 1998 NBA Draft and played for a total of seven years up until his sudden death.
11 Konrad Reuland (2016)
Remember Konrad Reuland? He was an undrafted free agent tight end who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Previously, he played college football at the University of Notre Dame and later transferred to Stanford University, where he sat out for the 2008 NCAA season. He caught six passes for 142 yards in 13 games played in 2009. The following year, he recorded 21 receptions for 209 yards to cap off his college career.
Reuland was a good friend of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who most recently played for the Chicago Bears in 2017. The two guys reportedly knew each other since elementary school and were teammates at Mission Viejo High School and later the New York Jets.
Unfortunately, Reuland's life was cut short after the 29-year-old didn't even make it to see 30. On November 28, 2016, he suffered a brain aneurysm and underwent surgery, but ultimately died two weeks later at UCLA Medical Center. In the wake of his passing, his heart and one of his kidneys were transplanted into MLB Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Moreover, his liver and other kidney were transplanted into two unnamed people.
Reuland's alma mater, Stanford University, tweeted their condolences on the night of his passing: "We have lost a bright light in our beloved brother, Konrad Reuland. His memory and spirit will never leave us. We love you. #RIPKonrad".
10 Dave Mirra (2016)
If you follow extreme sports, then you should know who Dave Mirra was. But in case if you need a refresher, Mirra was a well-known BMX rider who held the record for most X Games medals in BMX freestyles and competed in every X Games competition from 1995 up until his death in 2009.
Mirra once contracted bacterial meningitis in 2010, but fully recovered and resumed his usual rallying activities. Six years later, the 41-year-old's body was found in the back of a track during a quick trip to visit friends in Greenville, North Carolina. The nature of his passing came as a shock, as Mirra had told others he was considering a return to BMX.
Allen Thomas, the Greenville mayor, told ESPN.com that Mirra was a "great friend and wonderful human being."
Thomas also told NBC News in a statement: "We mourn the loss today of a great friend and wonderful human being who touched the lives of so many around the world with his gift...A young life with so much to offer was taken too soon."
In addition, Mirra was posthumously diagnosed with CTE and became the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with the disease. Mirra left behind a wife and two daughters, who all felt extreme grief.
9 Will Smith (2016)
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith had a noteworthy career with a Super Bowl XLIV championship, 2006 Pro Bowl title and New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame induction under his belt. Smith also was a 2002 BCS National Champion and 2003 First-Team All-American at Ohio State University. In addition, he was one of USA TODAY's All-American picks at Proctor High School in Utica, New York.
Smith played almost all of his career with the Saints after being selected 18th overall by the New Orleans-based team in the 2004 NFL Draft. He wrapped up his career with the New England Patriots, who released him during the 2014 NFL preseason.
The saddest part was that Smith lost his life during a seemingly common argument in traffic that quickly escalated. The perpetrator wound up being sentenced later that year.
Smith's former head coach Sean Payton spoke glowingly of his former player following his passing, saying: "Man, he was special," Saints coach Sean Payton said, choking up. "Like rare. Not as a player, but as a man, a player and a teammate."
Smith is survived by his wife Raquel, who was a key witness in the trial following the incident, saying to the perp:
"I don't want sympathy, I want justice," she said on the stand, according to WGNO. "He is not here today so I am his voice."
8 Joe McKnight (2016)
Running back and return specialist Joe McKnight wasn't much of a name in the NFL, but he did play for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs before traveling to Canada to play for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders prior to his death on December 1, 2016.
He played college football at the University of Southern California, where he was often dubbed as "the next Reggie Bush" by coaches and media members alike.
In the midst of a road rage incident, things escalated which resulted in a fatal altercation between McKnight and a 54-year-old driver.
Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick said in a statement: "We offer our most sincere condolences to the McKnight family and hope they can find peace in knowing that justice has been served in this case. We also want to thank the jurors for their service and incredible attentiveness they spent following the evidence."
But it took a while for local authorities to indict Ronald Glasser. According to Sheriff Newell Normand, Louisiana's self defense laws demanded that police "get it right."
Witnesses provided different accounts as to who the instigator in the confrontation was, but in the end Gasser was found to be at fault.
7 Josh Samman (2016)
Josh Samman looked like your typical tough guy, but he and his MMA announcer friend Troy Kirkingburg passed away in late 2016. USA Today would publish a piece a few months later detailing the 28-year-old's passing. Unlike Kirkingburg, Samman was in critical condition and fell into a coma before his official passing on October 5, 2016. The Des Moines, Iowa, native was a mixed martial artist who competed as a middleweight in the UFC and additionally competed in Bellator MMA.
But let's not forget that Samman had lost his girlfriend Hailey Bevis through a single car accident while the couple were texting each other.
“The last text that I got from her was at 8:36 p.m., and there was an officer on the scene of her car wreck at 8:41 p.m.,” Samman told MMAjunkie of USA TODAY Sports. “So I’ve always held myself responsible for that.”
Samman added, "People say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but I knew...I knew what I had when I had it. I’d never been more happy in my whole life.”
Also, Samman's constant struggles with injuries along with the passing of his stepfather caused him to experience the exact same cycle of grief and loneliness over and over again.
Samman's coach Joe Burtoft asked: "After a while, you just don’t know what to say anymore...It was just, like, when is this kid going to get a break?”
6 Bryan Clauson (2016)
Bryan Clauson was another driver who died at a rather young age. The 27-year-old was a dirt track icon who competed in dirt track open-wheel racing along with the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Indy Lights and IndyCar Series. He was a former development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Clauson tried to compete in 200 races in 2016. Unfortunately, his quest for 200 races came to an end when he was involved in a car crash at the Belleville High Banks Speedway in Belleville, Kansas, and officially died in a nearby hospital the following night on August 7, 2016.
Tony Stewart talked about his late friend to USA TODAY: "It sucks when it’s anybody in racing. It’s hard when you lose them, but it’s even worse when they’re somebody as close to you as Bryan was. I feel for Lauren today and Bryan’s parents and his sister, and I hope to be able to see them soon, but just thinking about them more than anything right now."
Clauson was survived by his fiancee Lauren Stewart, his parents Tim and Diana Clauson and his sister Taylor Clauson. A statement on behalf of the Clauson family said that Clauson "fought to the end with the same desire that he demonstrated behind the wheel of all the various cars he would park in victory lane."
5 Kimbo Slice
Kimbo Slice was mostly known as being a street fighter who went viral and wound up getting opportunities in professional fighting. While he was never the most talented fighter, he often drew a lot of attention, as many couldn't help but be curious as to how this former street fighter would fare in the octagon with trained professionals. Slice also had a short boxing career, where he managed to go 7-0 on top of what he would accomplish in MMA. Slice finished his career with a record of 5-2.
His last fight took place in 2016 which was the infamous bout with Dada 5000 where both fighters were running on fumes by the time Slice scored a TKO win.
However, the decision was later changed, when Slice tested positive for an elevated testosterone ratio.
Slice would pass away a few months after his last fight on June 6, 2016. He had been scheduled to fight for Bellator on July 16 of that year. Obviously, those in the fighting community were taken aback when Slice passed at 42. He had needed a heart transplant days before his passing but couldn't get one in time.
President of Bellator Scott Coker expressed sadness over the loss:
"One of the most popular MMA fighters ever, Kimbo was a charismatic, larger-than-life personality that transcended the sport. Outside of the cage he was a friendly, gentle giant and a devoted family man. His loss leaves us all with extremely heavy hearts, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ferguson family and all of Kimbo's friends, fans and teammates."
4 Pavol Demitra
Obviously, everyone in the hockey community was devastated over Lokomotiv's tragedy in 2011, when the entire KHL team succumbed in a plane crash. There were several former NHL players aboard that plane, but one name NHL fans might remember most is Pavol Demitra, who enjoyed a fine career, most notably with the St. Louis Blues. Demitra was a solid point producer in his NHL career and managed to play 847 games, scoring 304 goals and adding 464 assists. Demitra also played really well for Slovakia in their surprising run to a 4th place finish. However, the 2009-10 season would be Demitra's last in the NHL, as he made the move to the KHL for the 2010-11 season. In Demitra's lone season with Lokomotiv, he managed a 60-point season in 54 games and at 36 years old, it seemed he'd be able to enjoy playing professional hockey a few more years.
Sadly, the tragedy occurred on September 7, 2011. He survived by his wife Maja and two children, Lucas and Zara. His wife was also pregnant at the time of his passing, leaving him predeceased by his infant son Tobias. The tragedy truly was one of the darkest days in all of sports history.
3 Hideki Irabu
Hideki Irabu began his professional baseball career in Japan, but many Yankees fans will remember that Irabu joined the team just in time for a couple of runs at the World Series. Irabu joined the Yankees in 1997 and was around for the Yankees' two titles in 1998 and 1999. Irabu's best MLB season came in 1998 when he recorded 13 wins, with an ERA of 4.06 and managed to pitch 173 innings. His play however would dip, and he was traded to the Montreal Expos prior to the 2000 season for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. His time in Montreal would prove to be a disappointment, as he only started 14 games in his two years north of the border.
Overall Irabu played six years in the majors, and managed a statline of 126 games, 514 innings, 34 wins, 35 losses, 16 saves, 405 strikeouts, and a 5.15 ERA.
Later in his life, Irabu faced many personal struggles and he was found unresponsive in Los Angeles on June 27, 2011. At the time of his passing he was reportedly despondent after finding out that his wife and children were leaving him. Let's just say he definitely had some personal demons in the last few years of his life.
2 Elena Baltacha
Elena Baltacha was once ranked in the top 50 on the WTA, but sadly she endured some health problems, as she was diagnosed with liver cancer in early January 2013. It was just weeks after she had married her husband, tennis coach Nino Severino. She had also just announced her retirement from tennis a few months before, making the diagnosis all that much more heartbreaking, as she was set to begin her life after tennis and probably start a family with Severino. She would pass away in May of that year.
Baltacha's husband Severino has definitely not forgotten his wife, whom he was only married to for five months, as he carries her racket with him to training to this day.
"It's a very meaningful thing for me. It has still got the same grip on it and the grip is in tatters, but I know that grip was held by Bal so I still haven't changed it," he told the Mirror.
'We used to say we spent more time together in eight years than most people spend in a lifetime," he continued. "So it was a shock to then be on my own. It's all the time to come that I dread the most."
1 Rashaan Salaam
Rashaan Salaam was a former Heisman Trophy winner as he ran roughshod for the Colorado Buffaloes in college. He earned the Heisman in the 1994 season after recording 2,055 yards rushing, only the fourth player in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. With that kind of production, Salaam went into the NFL with huge expectations. The Chicago Bears drafted him 21st overall in the 1995 draft and his career initially got off to a promising start. As a rookie, he rushed for 1,074 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Sadly though, that would prove to be the height of his NFL career, as his production dipped in subsequent years, rushing for just over 600 yards combined in his following two years in Chicago.
Salaam had problems with ball security as well as having personal issues off the field, which led to the Bears trading him to the Dolphins. The trade fell through when Salaam failed a physical in Miami. His NFL career would dwindle from there with short stints in Cleveland and Packers, before trying out the XFL in the league's only season.
Salaam was found lifeless in late 2016, but his family didn't consent to a brain examination, which could have possibly revealed whether Salaam suffered from CTE.
As for his reasoning, Salaam's brother shed a little light in an interview with USA Today:
"It was a very short, private note,” said his brother, Jabali Alaji. “But it explained a lot ... I’ll never reveal exactly what it said."