Dave Duerson
No. 22, 26
Personal information
Born:(1960-11-28)November 28, 1960
Muncie, Indiana, U.S.
Died:February 17, 2011(2011-02-17) (aged 50)
Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:207 lb (94 kg)
Career information
High school:Muncie Northside
College:Notre Dame
NFL Draft:1983 / Round: 3 / Pick: 64
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
INT yards:226
Player stats at NFL.com

David Russell Duerson (November 28, 1960 – February 17, 2011) was an American professional football player who was a safety in the National Football League (NFL) for 11 seasons, primarily with the Chicago Bears. As a member of the Bears, he was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1985 to 1988 and was part of the 1985 defense that won the franchise's first Super Bowl in Super Bowl XX. He also played for the New York Giants and Phoenix Cardinals, winning Super Bowl XXV with the former.

At age 50, Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Following his request, his brain was sent to the Boston University School of Medicine for research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Neurologists at Boston University confirmed that Duerson had CTE as a result of the concussions he had during his playing career.

Early life

Born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, Duerson played football, basketball, and baseball at Northside High School. Duerson's honors during his high school years included the 1979 Indiana Mr. Football.[1]

College career

Duerson played college football at the University of Notre Dame from 1979 to 1982,[2] and graduated with honors, with a BA in economics. He started all four years for the Fighting Irish, and earned recognition as an All-American in 1981 and 1982. Duerson was a captain and the team's MVP as a senior in 1982, intercepting seven passes and returning them for 104 yards. He finished his college career with 12 interceptions, which he returned for 256 yards and a touchdown. He also returned 103 punts for 869 yards and 3 kickoffs for 75.[3]

He was the winner of the Edward "Moose" Krause Distinguished Service Award in 1990 by the Notre Dame Monogram Club, of which he was a past president. He was also a member of the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2005.[2]

Professional career

Taken in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Duerson was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (19861989). He won two Super Bowl championship rings, with the 1985 Bears (XX), and 1990 Giants (XXV).[4] During the 1986 season, Duerson set an NFL record that stood for 19 years (Adrian Wilson, 2005) for most sacks in a season by a defensive back, with seven. He also intercepted six passes for 139 yards with a longest return of 38 yards. At season's end, Duerson was named first-team All-Pro by Pro Football Weekly, the Pro Football Writers Association and The Sporting News and second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. In 1987, Duerson was the recipient of the NFL Man of the Year Award. In his 11 seasons, Duerson recorded 20 interceptions, which he returned for 226 yards, and 16 quarterback sacks. He also recovered five fumbles, returning them for 47 yards and a touchdown.

After football

Duerson owned three McDonald's restaurants in Louisville, Kentucky for six months, from late 1994 to April 1995. He purchased the majority interest in Fair Oaks Farms (formerly Brooks Sausage Company) in 1995.[5] He sold his stake in the company in 2002 and started Duerson Foods, but that company was forced into receivership in 2006 and most of its assets were auctioned off.[6]


Duerson was found dead at his Sunny Isles Beach, Florida[7] home on February 17, 2011. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner reported that Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.[8] He sent a text message to his family saying he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which is conducting research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease, which can be caused by playing football.[9] He left behind three sons and a daughter from his marriage to ex-wife Alicia.[8] He was buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Notre Dame, Indiana.

On May 2, 2011, neurologists at Boston University confirmed that Duerson had CTE, which is caused by repeated hits to the head.[10] He was one of at least 345 NFL players to be diagnosed after death with this disease.[11][12]

In popular media

Duerson was portrayed by actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in the 2015 film Concussion. Duerson's family was displeased with how he was portrayed.[13] Duerson was also mentioned in the HBO series Ballers in reference to CTE with character Ricky Jerret.

See also


  1. ^ "David R. Duerson". Indiana Football Hall of Fame. 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Former Irish Safety Dave Duerson Passes Away". Athletics News. University of Notre Dame. February 18, 2011. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  3. ^ "Dave Duerson College Stats".
  4. ^ "Bears Trounce Patriots, 46-10, in Super Bowl". Los Angeles Times. January 27, 1986. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  5. ^ Lloyd, Fonda Marie (October 1995). "We're black-owned". Black Enterprise. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  6. ^ Pompei, Dan (February 18, 2011). "Ex-Bears star from '85 Super Bowl team found dead in Miami". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Pompei, Dan (February 18, 2011). "Bears safety Dave Duerson dead at 50". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 23, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Foley, Stephen (February 22, 2011). "Tragic NFL star's last wish could shed new light on game's risks". The Independent. London. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Rosenthal, Gregg (February 22, 2011). "Dave Duerson's son: "He was hoping to be a part of an answer"". Profootballtalk.com. NBC Sports. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  10. ^ Schwarz, Alan (May 2, 2011). "Dave Duerson Found to Have the Brain Trauma He Suspected". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "The driving force behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)". Concussion Legacy Foundation. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  12. ^ Ken Belson and Benjamin Mueller (June 20, 2023). "Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E. The largest study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to date found that the cumulative force of head hits absorbed by players in their careers is the best predictor of future brain disease". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  13. ^ Schilken, Chuck (December 15, 2015). "Dave Duerson's family objects to his portrayal in 'Concussion'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 14, 2017.