Former Purdue NFL player dies at West Lafayette
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –Former Purdue football offensive guard and former NFL player Uchechukwu Nwaneri died Friday at his wife’s West Lafayette home, according to West Lafayette police and Tippecanoe County Coroner Carrie Costello.
Nwaneri drove from Georgia, police said, and was at the home of his wife, West Lafayette, in the 2600 block of Willow Drive, when he apparently collapsed, Costello said.
Nwaneri’s wife found him unconscious in a bedroom of her home around 1 a.m. Friday and called 911, Costello said.
An autopsy performed Monday indicated there were no signs of foul play, Costello said.
Preliminary results indicate a possible heart attack, pending toxicology results, Costello said.
A September 2006 Journal & Courier report by now-retired columnist and sportswriter Tom Kubat stated that Nwaneri had started his final season as an attacking guard.
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Nwaneri’s parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1973. His first name means “the will of God”, according to Kubat’s September 2006 report.
Nwaneri’s time on the Purdue grill was marred by a fight on July 14, 2005 while training with teammate Ryan Noblet.
During the fight, Nwaneri threw a punch that shattered Noblet’s jaw.
Nwaneri was suspended from Purdue for the fall 2005 semester, according to Kubat’s reports in the J&C.
The J&C reached Noblet, who said, “I’m sorry to hear of his passing.”
Nwaneri returned for the spring semester and returned to the team in 2006 for his final season as a Boilermaker.
Several of Nwaneri’s teammates offered insight into his time at Purdue and beyond.
“When you spend hours and hours together, you develop a bond that unites you over the years,” said Brian Wang, Nwaneri’s teammate between 2002 and 2004.
“Uche loved to make people laugh, loved to learn and always looked to the future. A successful entrepreneur after football,” Wang said.
“My brother, Uche, was a great soul to be around,” said former Purdue teammate Josh Ferguson. “He made us smile with a high spirit and full of energy.
“In light of his recent death, I want to make it clear that his presence had a positive impact on everyone he met,” Ferguson wrote in a prepared comment.
“We all had our moments in life that we had to learn from,” Ferguson wrote. “One incident as a young adult doesn’t change who he was for many. Uche was loved by everyone! A man of his character will surely be missed.”
Chase Lecklider, wide receiver for the Boilermakers from 2002-06, said, “Uche was a great teammate.
“We all had our moments, Uche was no different but he was just a great teammate and friend. He made us laugh for five seasons together,” Lecklider said.
Nwaneri was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, and he played seven seasons with the Jaguars, according to pro-football-reference.com.
“His NFL career was a fitting reward for his quality,” Lecklider said. “The news of his passing hit hard. He is too young. My thoughts are with his family and I will remember him well.”
Contact Ron Wilkins at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Former Purdue, NFL player dies at West Lafayette home