Former college football and NFL standout offensive lineman Uchechukwu Nwaneri passed away suddenly on Friday. He was 38.
As the Courier notes, Nwaneri’s wife found him unresponsive in a bedroom in their West Lafayette home at 1 a.m. on Friday, according to West Lafayette police and Tippecanoe County Coroner Carrie Costello.
The Tippecanoe County Office of the Coroner told TMZ that while an official cause of death hasn’t been determined yet, the preliminary findings state that Nwaneri died of an “enlarged heart with acute heart failure.”
An official cause will not be named until toxicology reports come back, which typically takes weeks.
Authorities did note that there was no sign of trauma or foul play.
Nwaneri was a solid player for the Purdue Boilermakers, despite being a relatively unheralded two-star recruit on Rivals.com.
According to the high school sports database, Nwaneri also received scholarship offers from Kentucky and Texas A&M despite his relatively low star rating.
Interestingly, Nwaneri was originally a defensive tackle (at least in high school), before transitioning to an offensive guard.
Nwaneri’s college career was relatively quiet, reflected by being drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL Draft, and marred by an incident where he broke a teammate’s jaw in practice.
But it was once Nwaneri was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars that he began to blossom.
While he doesn’t have any Pro Bowl or All-Pro awards to show for it, Nwaneri was always a solid player.
Things truly peaked for Nwaneri, professionally, in his 2009 season when he outright won the starting guard job, started in 13 games, played in all 16, and was only credited with giving up half a sack and zero penalties.
Anyone who has ever played offensive line can tell you that Nwaneri’s 2009 season is the stuff dreams are made of.
Nwaneri was known for his extreme toughness and resiliency, playing in 104 out of 112 possible games.
“We’re in the trenches. You can’t show any signs of weakness. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. A lot of it has to do with pride. At the same time, we’re all in this together. The guy next to me is relying on me. I don’t want to let that person down,” Nwaneri told The Florida Times-Union about playing injured back in 2013.
Nwaneri also signed with the Dallas Cowboys, but did not make the final cuts in 2014.
The son of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, Tony Khan, took to Twitter to share his condolences:
Rest In Peace, Uche Nwaneri. @Chukwu77 played 7 seasons with the @Jaguars, 2007-2013, and forged a strong bond with the Jags fans that’s remained to this day.
On behalf of the Jaguars organization and my family, our thoughts are with Uche’s family + friends at this terrible time.
— Tony Khan (@TonyKhan) January 2, 2023
“Rest In Peace, Uche Nwaneri,” the younger Khan wrote on Twitter.
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