Former NFL wide receiver Donald Reche Caldwell died at the age of 41 over the weekend, according to his former team the New England Patriots.
The Patriots tweeted their condolences over learning the news of Caldwell’s death on Sunday, but did not give details on his cause of death. Caldwell’s mother, Deborah Caldwell, told NBC affiliate WFLA he died on Saturday during an “ambush” in Tampa, Florida.
The Tampa Police Department would not confirm Caldwell’s death to NBC News, but did confirm they were investigating a homicide where a victim was shot and killed Saturday night. Although the investigation is ongoing, the department said it did “not appear to be a random act.”
Deborah Caldwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
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Caldwell was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2002 after playing at the University of Florida. The 41-year-old signed with the New England Patriots in 2006, making it all the way to the AFC Championship that season with the franchise’s former quarterback, Tom Brady. Caldwell dropped two passes in the championship game from Brady, and the team lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
He was subsequently released prior to the team’s 2007 season.
Former Patriots teammate Benjamin Watson tweeted about Caldwell on Sunday and said he was sad to hear of Caldwell’s death.
“Always kept us laughing and light hearted. Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories,” Watson tweeted.
Always kept us laughing and light hearted. Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories. Sad to hear about the passing of my teammate Reche Caldwell. May the Lord comfort his family during this time.
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) June 7, 2020
In 2015, Caldwell was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a drug charge, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The former NFL player was found to have accepted a parcel with 1.5 kilograms of ethylone in May of 2014, then investigators found a parcel he shipped to Atlanta a few days later with 1 kilogram of the drug, the Times reported.
He told ESPN in 2016 while still in prison that he took responsibility for his own actions, refusing to blame other circumstances for his situation.
“I’m not gonna blame football or concussions like everybody else for my mistakes,” Caldwell said. “I don’t blame my education or my hometown or my family. I have a great family. I had a great childhood. I grew up in a great place. This is about losing my way, being around bad people and making bad choices, and that’s all on me.”
Caldwell was also listed as one of 10 former NFL players involved in an alleged medicare fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice in December.