SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Carl Monroe, a wide receiver and kick return specialist with the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XIX championship team, died Wednesday of apparent heart failure, authorities said. He was 29.
Monroe, who played his entire pro career with the 49ers from 1983 to 1987, was pronounced dead at 7:58 a.m. at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center about half an hour after being brought by paramedics from his apartment in San Jose, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The hospital listed his death as a result of full cardiac arrest, but a Santa Clara County Coroner's Office spokesman said after a preliminary autopsy that a final cause of death would have to await toxicology tests and tissue examinations, which takes from four to six weeks.
Monroe, a native of Pittsburgh, joined the 49ers as a free agent in 1983. The 5-8, 180-pounder had a team-leading 26.5-yard kickoff return average, in 1985, the highest for a 49er since Vic Washington's 28.6-yard mark in 1972.
Monroe was released by the team before the start of the 1987 season but later rejoined the club as part of the replacement squad formed during the strike that season. He was released a second time when the strike was settled.
'The loss of Carl Monroe is felt deeply by all of us in the San Francisco 49ers organization,' team president Bill Walsh said. 'Carl was a courageous, determined and resourceful player. He was very popular with everyone here and we shall miss him very much.'
In January 1985, Monroe was picked up for drunk driving just days before the 49ers were to play in Super Bowl XIX in nearby Palo Alto, Calif. He rebounded to score San Francisco's first touchdown in what developed into a 38-16 rout of Miami.
Two months later, Monroe checked into a rehabilitation chenter in Burlingame to deal with alcoholism.
In 1987, two days before he was released by the team a second time, Monroe was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an opiate. However, no charges were filed after a blood test showed that the only drug in his bloodstream was codeine, which may have been in a cough syrup he had been taking.
Monroe, who attended San Jose's Overfelt High School, went on to the University of Utah, where he set single-season records for all-purpose yardage (1,816), rushing attempts (309) and rushing yards (1,507) as a senior in 1982.
He was selected all-WAC while leading the nation in all-purpose running (185.1 yards per game) and kickoff return average (30.0 on 14 returns) in 1982. He played in the Blue-Gray Game and Senior Bowl.
Monroe had been separated from his wife for three months and was living with a friend at an apartment in San Jose, a county sheriff's spokesman said. The companion, Starlette Williams, woke up to find Monroe coughing and choking in bed. She called paramedics, the spokesman said.
A coroner's investigator said Monroe had apparently passed out briefly Tuesday night while talking on the telephone. After having pizza for supper, he reportedly complained of a stomach ache, and he vomited twice during the night.
Monroe's agent, Bob LaMonte, said the athlete had a contract to play this year with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.
'I saw him three weeks ago and he looked great,' LaMonte said, 'just like he did when he was with the Niners, except maybe he was eight to 10 pounds overweight.
'He said he was looking forward to playing football again.'