December 29, 2016 / 5:26 PM / 2 years ago

Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam committed suicide -coroner

DENVER (Reuters) - Rashaan Salaam, a winner of college football’s Heisman Trophy, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in a park in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this month, a county coroner said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO -- Colorado tailback Rashaan Salaam, stands with the Heisman Trophy, College Football's highest award, after being named the outstanding college football player of 1994 at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, U.S. on December 10, 1994. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

A toxicology report showed Salaam, 42, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25, three times the legal limit for operating a vehicle in Colorado. His blood also contained 55 nanograms of THC, the psychoactive property of marijuana.

“The decedent reportedly has a history of depression; and recent life stressors,” the report noted. The report did not specify what stressors Salaam experienced.

A passerby found Salaam’s body on Dec. 5, Boulder police said. Salaam, who had played for the Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns, lived in Superior, Colorado, just southeast of Boulder.

Salaam won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest honor, as a University of Colorado running back in 1994, becoming the only player from that school to do so. A California native, he was the son of another NFL player, former Cincinnati Bengals running back Teddy Washington.

The Chicago Bears chose him in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft, and he also played for the Cleveland Browns in a career lasting four seasons.

Salaam’s brother, Jabali Alaji, told USA Today this month that Salaam suffered from depression and had symptoms associated with football head trauma, including memory loss and vision problems.

The family declined to have the coroner perform additional tests that would indicate whether Salaam suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The report said the autopsy would be performed in accordance with the religious preferences of Salaam and his next of kin. Salaam was Muslim.

CTE, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain seen in athletes and others with histories of repetitive brain trauma, has been discovered during autopsies on several former National Football League players.

The University of Colorado said its football team will honor Salaam with a helmet decal displaying his initials and numerals 19, his number during his time playing for the school, when they play Oklahoma State in Thursday’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Additional reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Lisa Shumaker

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