A Tennessee Titans football player died Monday morning from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot outside the Tampa, FL, high school where he graduated.
Officers discovered wide receiver Orenthal James Murdock, 25, wounded around 8:30 a.m. in his car in front of Middleton High School.
Murdock was taken to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition but was pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m., Tampa police said.
Murdock was signed by the Titans in July 2011. However, he was placed on the injured reserve list prior to the 2011 season after hurting his right foot during training camp.
Friday, Murdock was listed on the Titans' "did not report list," after he was absent at the beginning of the team's training camp in Nashville. Team officials said Murdock had called Friday to say he wouldn't be present for the start of training camp for personal reasons, but no one was expecting to get this news.
Murdock was a star-athlete at Middleton High who would go on to play at the University of South Carolina and Fort Hayes State University before signing with the Titans in 2011.
On his Facebook page, the only athlete Murdock followed was former Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley, who committed suicide in 2010. The two played football together at South Carolina and were the same age. However, both would land on the injured reserve list during their careers, and in a bizarre twist of fate, both athletes would die from apparent self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Al McCray, assistant head coach/receivers at Fort Hays State, said when he woke up at his Kansas home on Monday he found a text message on his cell phone from the player, thanking him for everything he had done for Murdock and his family. The athlete concluded the text with an apology that baffled McCray, who said he had known the 25-year-old since Murdock was in middle school.
"I spoke to him a week ago, and he was so excited about getting ready to go (to training camp). He was real happy about being able to help his mother out," McCray recalled. "You always like to hear kids who talk about that. It brings a smile to your face to hear a young man talk about 'Hey, I'm glad I'm able to help my mother out.'"
McCray was an assistant coach at Middleton when Murdock was there and later helped the player resume his college career after he was kicked off the team at South Carolina, where he was part of Steve Spurrier's first recruiting class.
"The hardest part about this is I got a text at 3:30 in the morning, where he said: 'Coach, I want to thank you for everything you've done for me and my family. It's greatly appreciated,'" McCray said. "At the end, he goes: 'I apologize.' And I don't know what he's talking about. I woke up, and I'm thinking he's apologizing because he texted me so early. ... I wish he had called instead."
Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak said Monday the team was not aware of any possible emotional issues that Murdock may have been battling.
Below is a statement released by the Titans:
"We are shocked and saddened to hear of Orenthal James Murdock's death this morning. In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them. He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year's training camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy."
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier released the following statement on Monday:
"All of us here are saddened to hear of O.J.'s passing. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends."
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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