Rashaan Salaam, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards for the University of Colorado on the way to winning the 1994 Heisman Trophy, died at a park in Boulder, the county coroner’s office confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Salaam, 42, was found dead just before 9 p.m. Monday in a parking lot at Eben G. Fine park on the west side of Boulder.
A police dispatcher told responding officers there was a revolver next to Salaam’s body, 9Wants to Know has learned. And although authorities stopped short of saying it appeared to be a suicide, Boulder police spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly said there was no sign of foul play and no threat to the community.
An autopsy that will help determine the cause of Salaam’s death is scheduled Wednesday.
"The Buff Family has lost an outstanding young man and a great Buff today," Athletic Director Rick George said in a statement released by the university. "We are heartbroken for Rashaan and his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very difficult time."
A park visitor called 911 after seeing a man on the ground, unconscious.
A dispatcher told responding officers that the caller said “this male party is laying unconscious next to a blue Dodge Stratus. There’s a revolver laying next to him. The vehicle was running. It’s in the back corner of the parking lot facing west. RP is seeing this from 20 feet away. Does not see any blood. States his T-shirt is pulled up and eyes are partially opened.”
The park is located near the entrance to Boulder Canyon.
In 1994, Salaam rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns as he led the Buffalos to an 11-1 record and a win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. CU finished that season ranked No. 3 in the nation, the second-best ever finish for a Colorado team.
"He was very coachable," former head coach Bill McCartney said in a statement released by the school. "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."
He opted to enter the NFL draft the following spring rather than return for his senior year in Boulder and was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears.
He ran for more than 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns as a rookie, but his production tailed off dramatically the following two seasons.
Salaam appeared in two games for the Cleveland Browns in 1999 and despite repeated attempts did not catch on with another NFL team.
Salaam, a native of San Diego, lived in Superior.
"This is a sad day for the entire university community as we mourn Rashaan's death," CU Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said. "Rashaan will be remembered as one of the greatest football players to ever wear a Buffs uniform, and his 1994 Heisman Trophy brought great prestige and honor to the university. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends."
Salaam's final season at CU produced a long list of records. He set the school scoring mark that season with 24 touchdowns and 144 total points; had nine consecutive 100-yard games, including a pair of 200-plus games; and his 317-yard effort in a 34-31 win over Texas is still the second-highest single-game total in CU history. Salaam also had 45 yards receiving in the game, giving him a CU-record 362 yards from scrimmage.
CU Sports Information Director Dave Plati knew Salaam well.
"I am speechless," Plati said Tuesday. "I've stayed in constant touch with Rashaan since he left CU. You develop a special bond with players you escort to the Heisman ceremonies – Darian Hagan, Eric Bieniemy, Rashaan. It's hard to explain but when you go through that weekend of events, your relationship with them is taken up a notch. We're minus one true Buffalo today."