Colorado standout, 1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam's death ruled a suicide

Family refuses tests to determine if concussion-related brain injury was a factor.

By The Sports Xchange
1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam died Dec. 5 and his death has been ruled a suicide. Image courtesy Colorado University Athletics
1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam died Dec. 5 and his death has been ruled a suicide. Image courtesy Colorado University Athletics

The death of former Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam was officially ruled a suicide, according to an autopsy report.

Salaam, 42, a former Colorado football star, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on Dec. 5, according to the Boulder County Coroner's Office. There was a note at the scene of the shooting, which occurred at a park near the University of Colorado campus.


The report stated that Salaam killed himself after struggling with depression. He was drinking heavily and using marijuana before his death and his blood-alcohol level was 0.25.

Salaam's family told investigators that he had a history of depression.

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It isn't known if Salaam was suffering from head trauma associated to his college and NFL careers. The family wouldn't allow the coroner's office to perform tests that would have determined if he had the degenerative brain diseases known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Salaam won the Heisman Trophy in 1994, beating out Warren Sapp and Steve McNair and winning by a landslide margin of 842 points. He also won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back by rushing for school records of 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns to lead Colorado to an 11-1 mark.


"He was very coachable," Bill McCartney, Salaam's coach at Colorado, said in a statement released by the university at the time of Salaam's death. "He had a happy heart. I loved being around him. He didn't take himself too seriously, and he always credited those around him, especially his offensive line. What I liked about him is that he had a sparkle in his eye. He was upbeat and positive."

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Salaam was selected with the 21st overall pick of the 1995 NFL draft by Chicago and rolled up 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns during his rookie season.

Salaam's NFL career took a nosedive after his impressive first season, with the running back admitting that marijuana played a role.

Salaam broke his leg during the 1997 season and entered a rehabilitation program the following year, but Salaam remained out of football until signing as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in 1999.

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Salaam's stay with the Raiders was short, but he latched on with the Cleveland Browns and played two games before briefly playing with the XFL's Memphis Maniax in 2001.

A failed attempt to return to the NFL prompted Salaam to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 2004, but a suspension effectively ended his professional career.


Salaam rushed for 1,684 yards in 33 NFL games.

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Prior to landing at Colorado, Salaam played eight-man football for La Jolla Country Day School in suburban San Diego, and McCartney and the Buffaloes prevailed in recruiting to gain his services.

Colorado players will wear Salaam's initials and number on their helmets Thursday night when they face Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl.

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