Ronald Powell, a former linebacker with the New Orleans Saints, has died at just 32, according to a statement by the NFL Players Association. His cause of death was not revealed.
The former Saint played four seasons in the big leagues, growing from a rising college star to a fifth-round draft pick in 2014. His struggle with injuries led him through annual rotations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, and Seattle Seahawks. In 2018 he signed with the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football for the 2019 season, but the minor league organization closed its doors later that year.
In a statement, the Players Association praised Powell as a family man who played honorably throughout his short career.
“Today we mourn the loss of Ronald Powell – a father, a brother, and a son who was loved and cherished by so many,” the NFLPA Formers Players Services said in a statement shared Tuesday. “We send comfort to all those who knew Ronald. #RIP.”
A native of Moreno Valley, California, Powell earned a scholarship in 2010 to play at the University of Florida and became a regular starter by his sophomore year. However, two ACL tears, followed by a third during rehabilitation, sidelined him for the 2012 season. Remarkably, he returned for his senior year, playing 11 games and starting in eight. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder played in 35 games across three seasons for the Gators, recording 79 tackles, 18.5 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks.
“We’re very saddened to learn about the passing of former Gators player Ronald Powell,” the Florida Gators’ football program said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Outsize attention has been drawn to the sudden deaths of exceptionally young athletes in recent years. Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, suffered a cardiac episode that doctors said was the result of a congenital defect. Others have been affected by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle which can cause serious heart rhythm problems and blockages to blood flow.