The life and death of Dave Duerson May 03 2011
Jason wrote about the suicide of Dave Duerson in February. Duerson was an all-pro NFL safety, most notably with the Chicago Bears, who shot himself in the chest.
He left several suicide notes and text messages asking for his brain to be examined post-mortem for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- a disease caused by repeated untreated concussions now thought to be common among professional football players and other athletes -- which he thought may have led to his depression. An autopsy later revealed that Duerson was right.
Gus Garcia-Roberts has a magnificent story on Duerson -- his childhood, football career, post-NFL life as an entrepreneur, and his dip into bankruptcy and mental illness, both of which he tried desperately to cover until the day he died.
To its black residents, Muncie -- nicknamed "Little Chicago" because it was divisively and forever segregated -- felt like a village. And by his high school graduation in 1978, Dave was the golden child. He was a member of the National Honor Society, had traveled through Europe playing the sousaphone as part of the Musical Ambassadors All-American Band, and in his senior year was voted Indiana Mr. Football. He could run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and throw a fastball at 95 mph. "I thought he might go on to be a senator," Kizer says, "or anything he wanted."
The Los Angeles Dodgers offered Dave a signing bonus to pitch for them. But when the Dodgers' scouts told his father there was "no time for college," Dave later recounted to HistoryMakers, "that was a very short conversation."
He enrolled in his home state's University of Notre Dame on a football and baseball scholarship. Once there, football dominated his schedule, and his baseball prospects faded away.
Dave would later say that, for the career longevity, he wished he had chosen baseball. Decades down the road -- after the undiagnosed concussions, headaches, mood swings, memory loss, erratic behavior, and, finally, the suicide -- his family would agree.