A nation of football fans and sports lovers were shocked with a tragic 24-hours of news, after it was announced that two athletes passed away yesterday.
First, we were hit with an announcement that NFL prospect Brandon Bourbon had been found dead during a search for what had been labeled a “missing-person case”. The former Kansas Jayhawks running back was found dead in his van from what was reported as a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police in Maries County, Mo.
Bourbon, 24, had been reported missing by friends last Saturday, after he failed to show up for church. His van was spotted nearly 80 miles away in a secluded spot.
Bourbon played three years at Kansas before transferring to Washburn, where he led the team in rushing, tallying 937 yards last season, and was named co-player of the year on offense.
Kansas coach David Beaty released this statement:
“Our hearts are broken to hear the news of the passing of Brandon Bourbon. Brandon was a wonderful teammate and friend. He was a tireless worker both on the field, and in the classroom, and was a constant source of inspiration within our program. The entire Jayhawk family cared very deeply for him, and he will always be in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandon’s family and friends.”
Washburn coach Craig Schurig also released a statement:
“We are saddened to hear of Brandon’s passing. In one season as an Ichabod, he made an immediate impact with the team coming prior to the start of the 2015 season. He was an extremely hard worker, and a leader in the locker room and weight room, and was voted a team captain prior to his senior season at Washburn. He was a joy to be around and to coach. The Washburn football family sends it thoughts and prayers to Brandon’s family.”
Oakland Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney, a former teammate at Kansas, created a GoFundMe account to help pay funeral expenses during the family’s time of need.
Love you homie. Rest easy pic.twitter.com/yOdGKECuBH
— Ben Heeney (@henbeeney) April 9, 2016
Shortly after the Bourbon news broke, the world was faced with another devastating bulletin, when it was announced that former Saints defensive end Will Smith was shot to death in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District on Saturday night, following a traffic collision.
Smith, 34, was shot after a heated argument with the driver of a Hummer H2 that rear-ended his Mercedes G63 SUV, causing him to strike another vehicle, police reported.
Smith was shot multiple times, while his wife, Racquel, 34, was shot twice in the right leg, according to police. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene, while his wife was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition.
Smith’s family released this statement Sunday morning:
“On behalf of the Smith family, we are thankful for the outpouring of support and prayers. We ask that you continue to respect the family’s privacy as they grieve the loss of a devoted husband, father and friend.”
The 30-year-old driver of the Hummer was said to be in police custody and being interviewed, and that the handgun used in the shooting was recovered.
The Saints also confirmed Smith’s death, by tweeting a statement:
A senseless and tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with Will Smith – his wife Racquel – his children William, Wynter and Lisa.
— Greg Bensel (@GregBensel) April 10, 2016
Smith was drafted by the Saints with the 18th overall pick in 2004 out of Ohio State. He spent his entire nine-year career with the Saints, and last played in 2012. He was a Pro Bowler in 2006, and ranks fourth in Saints history with 67.5 career sacks. He had a career-high 13 sacks during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl run.
Updates on the two incidents continue to pour in, painting a clear image of what talent and greatness the world, and the NFL, has lost. The families of both victims remain in the thoughts of the staff here at Nuts & Bolts Sports.
Kristen Ashly is a senior editor and contributor for Nuts & Bolts Sports. You can follow Kristen on Twitter @KristenAshly.