Tennessee Titans wide receiver O.J. Murdock died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after sending former coaches and friends heart-breaking cellphone messages.
Tampa police said that Murdock, 25, was found in his car Monday morning outside the high school at which he had been a stellar football player and a state champion sprinter. Although he was still alive at that point, he died at 10:43 a.m. at a hospital.
Aesha Bailey, who coached Murdock at Memorial Middle School, told Tampa Bay Online that she spoke to him by phone just before his death. She found him in his car.
“He just kept saying, ‘I'm sorry, coach. I'm sorry,’ ” Bailey said. “That's all he said.”
Al McCray, assistant head coach and receivers coach at Fort Hays State, said that he received a message from Murdock on his cellphone Monday morning. Murdock, he said, thanked him for everything he had done for Murdock and his family and ended with an apology. “I thought O.J. was just apologizing for sending me the text so early in the morning and I just sent him a text back, ‘Go hard at camp,’ ” said McCray.
Titans players were baffled by the suicide of Murdock, who signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Fort Hays in 2011 and was on injured reserve all last season because of an Achilles injury.
“It is a horrible thing,” tight end Jared Cook said (via Tennessean.com). He was Murdock’s roommate for one season at South Carolina. “You just don’t see things like this coming. He was an awesome dude. He really was.”
Murdock had not reported for training camp last week, citing what Coach Mike Munchak said were “personal reasons.”
Wide receiver Damian Williams had roomed with Murdock during spring drills and checked in on him late last week with a quick phone call. “He told me Friday night he was doing all right and would be here,” Williams said. Later Monday, Williams moved Murdock’s nameplate to his locker.
“When you are missing part of your family, it is always hard to focus,” Williams said. “But at the same time, he would want us to come out here and ball out. That was his personality. That’s who he was.”
It’s another awful loss for the NFL, in an offseason marked by the suicide of Junior Seau in May. Last week, the NFL announced the creation of a wellness program for players and former players that will include a confidental mental-health hotline.