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5 NFL players who tragically died by suicide

New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez
New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez

The average retirement age for NFL players is currently around 27 years old. This means that most former players have almost their whole lives in front of them when they retire from professional football. They have the ability to pursue other interests as their NFL careers often open doors for them.

Most players move on to new ventures following their football careers. Some, however, are less fortunate because their lives end before they really get started.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has long been a problem in the NFL. It has alarmingly been cited as the reason players have died young either during or after their NFL careers. It has also been a heavy contributor to suicides around the league.

Here are five NFL players who have tragically died by suicide at a young age.

#5 Phillip Adams

San Francisco 49ers DB Phillip Adams
San Francisco 49ers DB Phillip Adams

After being selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2010 NFL Draft, Phillip Adams played for six different teams in six seasons. He recorded five interceptions and defended 15 total passes during his career as a defensive back.

Five dead, one critically injured in a South Carolina shooting. The suspect is allegedly NFL player Philip Adams, who committed suicide following the event. https://t.co/Xj9oamFnnx

In 2021, at just 32 years old, Adams took his own life after a standoff with police. He shot six people, killing five of them, before shooting himself a few days later. Adams had no previous criminal record or any history of violence. His autopsy revealed an advanced case of CTE.

#4 Junior Seau

Pro Football Hall of Fame LB Junior Seau
Pro Football Hall of Fame LB Junior Seau

Junior Seau was a legendary NFL linebacker, who spent most of his career with the San Diego Chargers. He was selected to nine All-Pro teams and 12 Pro Bowls during his impressive career while being ranked third all time in total tackles.

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Seau tragically took his own life with a gunshot wound to the chest in 2012 when he was just 43 years old. About a year later, it was officially released that he was diagnosed with advanced CTE following an examination of his brain.

#3 Jovan Belcher

Kansas City Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher
Kansas City Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher

Jovan Belcher went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent. He remained with the Chiefs as a starting linebacker for four seasons and appeared to have a bright future until disaster struck.

Surreal scene at Jovan Belcher's childhood home: http://t.co/sXUV2HRs

Belcher, who was just 25 years old at the time, fatally shot his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, in their home. He then drove to the Chiefs' practice facility and shot himself in the parking lot after staff members were unable to talk him out of it. He was diagnosed with CTE following an autopsy.

#2 Aaron Hernandez

New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez
New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez was once one of the best tight ends in the NFL during his short career with the New England Patriots. He recorded 210 receptions for 2,316 yards and 20 touchdowns across just three full seasons before off-field issues ended his career and his life early.

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Hernandez was no stranger to controversy as he was often involved in legal trouble, including gang activity and violence. He was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd and was sentenced to life in prison.

He committed suicide in his jail cell at just 27 years old and was later diagnosed with CTE.

#1 Kenny McKinley

Denver Broncos WR Kenny McKinley
Denver Broncos WR Kenny McKinley

Kenny McKinley was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He contributed as a special teams player during his first season with the team before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

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About a year after he was drafted, McKinley was found dead in his home from a gunshot wound. It was later reported that he took his own life at just 23 years old due to a severe case of depression related to the injuries suffered during his rookie season and financial debts that had accumulated from gambling.

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Edited by Windy Goodloe
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