Former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead dead at 49

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Former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead is reportedly dead at 49.

The Upland, California, native’s death was reported by the NFLPA Alumni via Twitter on Monday morning:

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Hess Hempstead. After retiring from the Detroit Lions, he was a fixture at events and Charlotte Chapter activities, always with a smile and willingness to help his #NFLPAFraternity and community. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

A seventh-round draft pick by the Lions out of Kansas in 1995, Hempstead spent three seasons with the Lions before suffering a knee injury. He played in 31 games with Detroit.

After his on-field time with the Lions ended, he was hired by the team as a scout in 2000. After a year with the Lions, Hempstead was hired by the Washington Football Team in a personnel position.

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Detroit Lions offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead died at 49 on June 11, 2021. Hempstead, a seventh-round pick out of Kansas by the Lions in 1995, appeared in 31 games for the Lions over three seasons.
Detroit Lions offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead died at 49 on June 11, 2021. Hempstead, a seventh-round pick out of Kansas by the Lions in 1995, appeared in 31 games for the Lions over three seasons.

Hempstead saw the most action in 1997, appearing in 16 games and starting one. That season, running back Barry Sanders rushed for a team-record 2,053 yards behind an offensive line that included Hempstead, Ray Roberts, Mike Compton, Kevin Glover, Jeff Hartings, Larry Tharpe, Tony Semple, Juan Roque and Tony Ramirez.

Hempstead’s lone start came on Oct. 12, 1997, on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pressed into action as a replacement at left guard when left tackle Roberts was injured against Buffalo the previous week, Hempstead was excited to play but cognizant of his role as a reserve.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be ready every week," Hempstead told the Free Press. "I'm excited because this is something that's happened and I've got a whole week to prepare, whereas a lot of times you have a situation like this that comes up during the game. … If you had to be put in this situation, this is kind of the best way to be put into it."

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Hempstead started the game, but Semple played most of the second and third quarters. After the game, coach Bobby Ross was complimentary of both, telling the Free Press’ Curt Sylvester: "Both of them (Hempstead and Semple) did an excellent job. The plan was to play 'em both, the reason being they hadn't played any, so you worry about the heat and conditioning factor."

Despite the shakeup in the offensive line, Sanders rushed 24 times for 215 yards —including two rushes of 80 yards or more — and two touchdowns in a 27-9 Lions victory.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Hessley Hempstead dead at 49