Salaam, a San Diego native, rose to stardom at the University of Colorado, where as a junior he was a big part of the Buffaloes squad that went 11-1 and was ranked No. 3 in the polls at the end of the season. He rushed for 2,055 yards that season, becoming just the fourth college player to eclipse 2,000 yards, earning him the Heisman over Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter and Alcorn State’s Steve McNair.
Police said there were no signs of foul play in Salaam’s death, and the cause of death is unknown at this point. The Boulder Daily Camera reported it is being investigated as a possible suicide.
Salaam left Colorado after winning the Heisman, and the Bears chose him 21st overall in the 1995 draft. His rookie season went well as the 6-foot-1 back recorded 1,074 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but it was the high-water mark for his career.
He played just 15 games (nine starts) over the next two years with Chicago, as injuries and a fumbling issue led to his looking for a new team after just three seasons with the Bears. Salaam was with the Cleveland Browns for two games in 1998 and never played in another NFL game.
Salaam played with the XFL’s Memphis Maniax in 2001.
“He was very coachable,” former Colorado coach Bill McCartney told the school’s website. “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.”