“Are you ready for some football?” Heading into the football season, most NFL fans are always thinking about one thing when it comes to their favorite team, winning the Super Bowl. Winning the Super Bowl means destroying their opponent and getting to the big game by any means necessary. This is the mindset fans expect from their players, and in many instances, players live up to the fans’ murderous expectations. However, this mindset can be a potential problem for players who retain the same intensity off the field.
Despite their superhuman abilities, NFL players are human beings, and it’s not easy for them to turn off their “killer instinct.” While NFL fans worship their larger-than-life heroes, the truth is many players aren’t the “great,” “heroic” human beings that they display on television. The NFL’s public relations department and agents of the players have tried, often successfully to keep their players out of trouble. Still there are a few athletes that struggle to assimilate into the “normal” life and find themselves in bad situations committing horrific acts that no one thought possible.
The NFL is a violent sport, and unfortunately for some, the violence carries over, off the field, during their careers and even after. Many football players find themselves committing violent criminal acts outside of the sport while others find themselves the unfortunate victim of violence. Sadly, this violence includes the worst human act which has claimed the lives of NFL players over the years as victims and as perpetrators of the violence. Here’s a list of 8 NFL players who took a life and 7 who were murdered.
15 Took One: Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez played three season with the New England Patriots playing tight end. With fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, Hernandez wreaked havoc across the NFL and helped take the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2012. However, Hernandez is mostly known for his convicted murder of one victim with the possibility of more.
Later in 2012, Hernandez was investigated in connection with the deaths of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado but was acquitted in 2017. In 2013, Hernandez was arrested in connection to the death of Odin Lloyd who was a friend of Hernandez and, at the time, dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
The body of Lloyd was found roughly a mile from Hernandez’s house in an industrial park, Hernandez’s security system and cellphone were destroyed and a cleaning crew conspicuously was sent to Hernandez's house, raising the suspicions of investigators. Eventually, Hernandez would be charged with murder. Prosecutors argued that Hernandez was with the victim ten hours before his death. Prosecutors asserted that Lloyd broke the trust of Hernandez during a possible marijuana related deal, motivating him to kill. Earlier this year, Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell. News has recently surfaced that even though he was only 27, Hernandez was already suffering from stage 3 of CTE, which many are now wondering if it had something to do with his behavior.
14 Taken: Steve McNair
Steve McNair was an NFL quarterback who played for the Tennessee Titans and led them to four playoff appearances including a Super Bowl. McNair would eventually be traded to the Baltimore Ravens before retiring in 2008.
On July 4, 2009, Steve McNair was found dead with his mistress Sahel “Jenni” Kazemi in an apparent murder-suicide. While Kazemi is believed to be the perpetrator, the motive remains unclear. Kazemi’s mounting financial issues and the suspicion of McNair being in yet another extramarital affair may have led up to the shooting. Inside his rented condominium, McNair was believed to be asleep on the couch before being shot twice in the chest and twice in the head before Kazemi sat beside McNair on the couch and turned the gun on herself.
13 Took One: O.J. Simpson
Orenthal James “O.J." Simpson is a hall of fame NFL running back, having played nine seasons with the Buffalo Bills and two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Simpson’s long, hall of fame career was overshadowed by the highly publicized murder trial of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman.
Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death, and Simpson was the prime suspect. A low-speed pursuit captivated the media, and the trial itself was one of the most publicized trials in American history. Simpson was acquitted of the charges and maintains his innocent despite remaining the most likely suspect. Goldman’s father would later sue Simpson in a wrongful death and battery of Ron Goldman. Simpson was found liable for the wrongful death in the civil trial and ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages to the Goldman family.
12 Taken: Sean Taylor
Sean Taylor, the free safety for the Washington Redskins, played four seasons in the NFL from 2004-2007. In 2007, Taylor was killed when intruders entered Taylor’s house, believing the home to be empty. Details of the incident that have been pieced together are alarming. An acquaintance of Taylor, Jason Mitchell, who was a friend of Taylor’s sister’s boyfriend, was the mastermind of the plot to steal money inside Taylor’s house. Mitchell, who worked on Taylor’s property, cutting grass and cleaning the pool, gathered a group of friends to break into the house and steal money that he knew was inside.
Unknown to Mitchell, Taylor was home due to an injury. When Taylor confronted the intruders, Taylor was shot in the upper leg by one of the burglars, Eric Rivera, who was 17 at the time. Though shot in the leg, the bullet severed an artery, and Taylor suffered extensive blood loss. Taylor eventually died from his wound nine days later. In total, five suspects were charged with murder. Mitchell was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison while Rivera is sentenced to over 57 years in prison.
11 Took One: Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth is a former Carolina Panthers wide receiver, playing three seasons in the NFL with the team. Carruth played in the first six games of the 1999 season until he was allegedly involved in the murder of Cherica Adams who was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s child. Adams was shot four times in her car by nightclub manager and associate of Carruth, Van Brett Watkins Sr. She died a month later, but her child survived, albeit with permanent brain damage. After Adam’s death, Carruth fled but was apprehended a day later. Prosecutors argued that Carruth hired Watkins to kill Adams after she refused to have an abortion. The defense argued that Carruth was instead involved in a drug deal gone bad with Adams caught in the middle. Nevertheless, Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 18-24 years in prison.
10 Taken: Antonio Armstrong
Antonio Armstrong was an NFL linebacker for the Dolphins, 49ers and St. Louis Rams between 1995 and 1996. He joined the Canadian Football League in 1998 playing for the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers until his retirement in 2002.
Sadly, in 2016, Armstrong would be shot and killed along with his wife by their 16-year old son, Antonio Armstrong Jr. Details of the crime are sketchy, with Armstrong Jr. claiming to have heard gunshots in the bedroom and seen a masked man in the house that night. Armstrong Jr.’s story didn’t add up as there were no signs of a break-in and nothing was taken. Though a motive is still unknown, Armstrong Jr. has been charged with the crime.
9 Took One: Robert Rozier
Very few athletes have serial killer attached to their profile, but Robert Rozier is one of those athletes. Rozier played in the NFL as a defensive end for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. Rozier participated in six games before being released due to drug issues. In 1985, Rozier joined “The Brotherhood,” a secret black supremacist cult founded by Hulon Mitchell Jr. a.k.a. “Yahweh Ben Yahweh.”
As their initiation rite into Yahweh’s radical group, members were required to murder “white devils” and return with a body part of their victim. Rozier impaled his first victim with a sword and returned with his victim’s severed ear. In total, Rozier admitted to killing seven people in order to please Yahweh. He only served 22 years in prison after agreeing to testify against Yahweh’s organization.
8 Taken: Fred Lane
American Football running back, Fred Lane, played for the Carolina Panthers from 1997-1999. In 2000, shortly after being traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Lane’s wife, Deidra Lane, shot and killed him. Investigators believed Lane was shot once in the chest with a 12-gauge shot gun and then again in the back of the head at point blank range. Prosecutors claimed Deidra Lane was an abusive wife seeking insurance money. Countering this claim, Deidra Lane’s defense attorneys claimed Deidra was in an abusive relationship and shot Fred Lane in self-defense. The judge disagreed with the defense because of the second deliberate shot to the back of the head. Deidra Lane was sentenced to seven years and eleven months in jail after she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
7 Took One: Tommy Kane
Tommy Kane was a former NFL wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks from 1988-1992. During his modest career, Kane amassed 9 touchdowns and gained over 2,000 receiving yards. His final season ended with knee and ankle injuries, and Kane was cut from the Seahawks the following year.
In 2003, Kane was originally charged with second degree murder in the stabbing death of his recently separated wife, Tammara Shaikh. Kane pleaded guilty to manslaughter after questions were raised as to whether or not Kane intended to kill his wife, despite having abusive confrontations with her before. Shaikh’s intention to divorce Kane is believed to be the trigger that set Kane into a murderous rage, stabbing Shaikh and beating her. In a controversial decision, prosecutors agreed to a lesser charge believing severe depression may have influenced Kane’s actions.
6 Taken: Shane Curry
In 1992, Shane Curry was senselessly killed at a nightclub parking lot over an argument involving a blocked car. Curry was to be a big part of the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts and recorded one sack in his first nine games. Curry seemed to have a promising NFL career ahead of him when it suddenly ended.
Details of the incident that resulted in Curry’s death are hazy. His killer, Artise Anderson, who was 15 years old at the time, claimed Curry, in his truck, blocked his uncle in the parking lot of a Cincinnati nightclub. A dispute occurred with Curry allegedly disrespecting Anderson’s uncle. Anderson claims he only intended to intimidate Curry, but when he pointed a gun at Curry, the gun went off. Curry was struck in the head and died an hour later. Anderson was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
5 Took One: Eric Naposki
Eric Naposki played in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts as a 6’2” linebacker from 1988-1989. In 2009, Naposki was convicted in the 1994 murder of millionaire health care entrepreneur, Bill McLaughlin and boyfriend of Nanette Johnston who was having an affair with Naposki at the time. Although Naposki and Johnston were the prime suspects, no murder weapon, DNA or witnesses could be produced to charge them for murder.
However, new evidence was uncovered in 2007, and the case was reopened. Prosecutors argued that Johnston, who was living with McLaughlin, provided keys for Naposki to enter McLaughlin’s home. It was argued that Naposki entered and gunned McLaughlin down at close range so Johnston could acquire money from McLaughlin’s will, estate and life insurance, allegedly worth millions. Naposki and Johnston would both be convicted of murder with Naposki sentenced to life in prison without parole.
4 Taken: Darrent Williams
Darrent Williams finished two seasons with the Denver Broncos establishing himself as a starting cornerback as well as a punt and kick-off returner. In two seasons, Williams recorded two touchdowns, six interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.
On January 1, 2007, just hours after the last game of the season for the Broncos, Williams was killed during, what is believed to be, a gang related drive-by shooting. The police reported that there was some sort of altercation at the nightclub, Safari, between Williams’ teammate, Brandon Marshall and Crips gang members at the club. Witnesses at the club stated Williams and Marshall were flashing Blood gang signs, though evidence of this is unsubstantiated. After Williams had left in his stretch limousine, a car pulled alongside it and opened fire. Williams was hit in the neck and died while two other occupants were also shot. Over a year later, Crips member Willie D. Clark was indicted on October 8, 2008 and later found guilty in 2010.
3 Took One: Anthony Wayne Smith
Anthony Wayne Smith was an NFL defensive end playing seven seasons with the Los Angeles Rams/Oakland Raiders organization from 1991 to 1997. However, details of Smith’s life outside of the NFL revealed a life of sickening and inexplicable murders.
In 2011, Smith and two others were charged in the murder of Maurilio Ponce who was involved in a business deal gone bad. Ponce was beaten and shot six times with his body dumped in a field. However, the jury was deadlocked in the case, unable to reach a verdict against Smith. While awaiting retrial of the Ponce murder, Smith was charged with three additional murders.
Smith was charged in the 1999 killings of brothers Kevin and Ricky Nettles who were both kidnapped, tortured and fatally shot by Smith before dumping their bodies. Smith was also charged with the 2001 murder of Dennis Henderson who was kidnapped and stabbed 34 times before Smith slashed his throat. In 2016, Smith was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without parole for the deaths of the Nettles brothers and Henderson. Despite the conviction, the motive for the three gruesome murders remains unknown.
2 Taken: Colin Ridgeway
Colin Ridgeway was an Australian born NFL football punter for the Dallas Cowboys in 1965. Undrafted, Ridgeway signed with the Cowboys and played in three games making him the first Australian NFL player.
In 1993, Ridgeway was murdered when he returned home from dinner with his wife, Joan Jackson. When Ridgeway entered the front door, he was shot seven times while his wife claimed to be watering flowers in the back of the house. Kenneth Bicking was the suspect in the case in what police believed was a kill-for-hire plot involving Bicking and Jackson.
Bicking had a long criminal background and had connections with Jackson, at one point sharing a financial account with her. Though Jackson and Bicking were prime suspects in the murder, circumstantial evidence was thrown out and the case lacked strong evidence to convict them. Investigators had hoped DNA tests would place Bicking at the scene, but tests returned negative. The case remains opened today.
1 Took One: Lawrence Phillips
Lawrence Phillips had character concerns that stemmed from his college days, but the Rams overlooked that and took him fairly high in the 1996 NFL Draft. However, Phillips would bounce around the NFL, as he was unable to stay out of trouble. After his NFL career was over, Phillips would be given a 10-year sentence for running over three teenagers in a parking lot following a dispute at a pick-up football game. While serving his sentence, Phillips' cellmate was found dead in their cell and was deemed to have been strangled to death. Phillips was the prime suspect and while awaiting trial, Phillips was found unresponsive in his cell. His brain is being donated to science to be examined for CTE, which may have played a part in his recurring troubling behavior.