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NFL Players Who Died of Drug Overdoses
The cause of death of former Baltimore Colts player Bubba Smith has been determined to be from a drug overdose. The defensive end, who also played for the Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders, died August 3, 2011 at the age of 66. Smith, also known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy films, was originally thought to have died from natural causes, but a recent coroner's report states that diet pills led to his death from "extreme phentermine intoxication".
Drug abuse and addiction are no strangers to the NFL and other major league sports. Many have struggled with addiction to recreational drugs, as well as pain killers that were prescribed for repeated injuries. Some overcame those addictions, while others succumbed to them. Charles "Bubba" Smith is not the first former football player to have died as a result of a drug overdose.
Former Dallas Cowboy Mark Tuinei was found dead in May 1999 from an apparent mixture of heroin and ecstasy. Twice selected as All-Pro, Tuinei left the Cowboys after the 1997 season due to knee injuries. He had hoped to pursue a career as a high school football coach in his home state of Hawaii. Mark Tuinei was 39.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam died from an apparent overdose of cocaine on Christmas Day, 2000. Gilliam, who was the first black quarterback to play for Pittsburgh, had a long history of drug abuse and recovery. During high points in his life he opened football camps for teen boys and had hoped to become a football coach at the high school or collegiate level. Homeless and destitute, at one point he pawned his two Super Bowl rings, which were later returned to his father, Joe Gilliam Sr., by supportive fans.
27-year-old Iraq war veteran Tony Fein died in 2009 from cardiac arrest brought on by "acute opiate (morphine) intoxication", coupled with an anti-anxiety medication. The rookie linebacker, an unsigned free agent out of the University of Mississippi, played for the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens during the preseason, and was also being looked at by some Canadian Football League teams.
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