Rashaan Salaam, who won the Heisman Trophy, U.S. college football's highest honor, and played in the National Football League, had “all the symptoms” associated with chronic football head trauma before he committed suicide last week, his brother said Sunday.
Jabali Alaji told USA Today Sports that his brother was suffering from memory loss and depression before his death. “He was banged up,” Alaji said. “He was a running back. Who gets hit more on the field than a running back?”
He added that his brother had grown used to pain, once playing with a broken elbow. Alaji told the outlet that he had read the symptoms of CTE, which include anxiety, depression, apathy and memory loss. “He had all those symptoms.”
Salaam, 42, died Monday, the Boulder County Coroner's office said in a statement, adding that it was conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death. His mother, Khalada told reporters Tuesday that Boulder police said they suspect it was a suicide and that a note was found.
Alaji said he spoke to his brother just hours before his death and the two had “a very positive conversation,” adding that Salaam made no indication of what he was about to do. “We made plans for the future.”
Salaam won the Heisman Trophy in 1994 as a running back, becoming the only player from the University of Colorado 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 Salaam in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft, and he also played for the Cleveland Browns in a career lasting four seasons."He had a happy heart," his college coach, Bill McCartney, said in a statement. "I loved being around him. He didn't take himself too seriously, and he always credited those around him."