‘Keep smiling,’ wrote Salaam wrote in his last Facebook post on November 27.
He poignantly shared a video of a live version of the song ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ performed by Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder.
“An autopsy was completed and the cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death was suicide,” said the Boulder County Coroner.
Salaam who was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft, started his bears career with a bang. He had an outstanding rookie season, rushing for 1,074 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. However, from that point his career spiraled downward, 4 years later he was out of the league.
In a 2012 Chicago Tribune profile Salaam said he spent his post-NFL life marketing mixed martial arts in China. Attributing his career declining to his having “no discipline,” excessive marijuana use and partying,
“I had no discipline. I had all the talent in the world,” Salaam told the Chicago
“You know, great body, great genes. But I had no work ethic and I had no discipline. The better you get, the harder you have to work. The better I got, the lazier I got. Work on your game. I didn’t realize coming up how much work you had to put in once you got to the NFL. It’s a whole different lifestyle. You have to change the way you live. You have to change who you hang out with. You have to totally get focused on your game. You have the athletic ability, but if you don’t put the work behind it, nothing will come from it.”
Rashaan Salaam with the Heisman Trophy he won in 1994
But at least one family member said recently that Salaam suffered from the crippling, degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition which scientists have linked to repetitive head trauma such as experienced playing violent contact sports like football.
“Back then, I should have taken it as a warning sign, but I thought that was normal behavior, just to give him his space,” Alaji told USA Today. “There’s a lot more stories that are like that, too. Now that it happened, I kind of beat myself up for not being more proactive and saying, ‘Hey, (Salaam) is depressed. Something’s wrong.’ But when you’re around him, he would never let anybody know that.”
Rashaan Salaam’s brother Jabali Alaji, has no doubt the former Heisman winner and NFL running back suffered from CTE. Jabali Alaji, stated that he spoke to his brother about an hour before his death but that Salaam didn’t indicate what he was about to do.
“It was a very positive conversation,” said Alaji, who lives in the Atlanta area. “We made plans for the future.”
However, Alaji told USA Today Sports earlier this week that Salaam had “all the symptoms” of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), including anxiety, depression, apathy and memory loss.
A note was found with Salaam’s body, and Alaji told USA Today Sports that “it explained a lot.”
“It was a very short, private note,” Alaji told the paper. “I’ll never reveal exactly what it said.”
Rashaan Salaam in action for the Chicago Bears against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, on 7 Sep 1997
Unfortunately for Salaam’s family and science, the manner of his suicide, eliminates the possibility of confirming a diagnosis of CTE.