Rashaan Salaam
refer to caption
Salaam holding the Heisman Trophy in 1994
No. 31, 29
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1974-10-08)October 8, 1974
San Diego, California, U.S.
Died:December 5, 2016(2016-12-05) (aged 42)
Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High school:La Jolla Country Day (San Diego)
College:Colorado (1992–1994)
NFL draft:1995 / Round: 1 / Pick: 21
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:1,684
Rushing average:3.6
Rushing touchdowns:13
Receiving yards:120
Receiving touchdowns:1
Player stats at PFR

Rashaan Iman Salaam (October 8, 1974 – December 5, 2016) was an American professional football running back who played for four seasons in the National Football League (NFL) during the 1990s. Salaam played college football for the Colorado Buffaloes and won the 1994 Heisman Trophy. He was picked by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Bears and the Cleveland Browns. Salaam committed suicide on December 5, 2016.[1]

Early life

Salaam was born in San Diego, California,[2] the son of former Cincinnati Bengals running back Teddy Washington (later Sulton Salaam, after converting to Islam).[3] He was a practicing Muslim.[4] He attended La Jolla Country Day School in suburban San Diego,[5] and played eight-man football. He ran for over 100 yards in every game except against Christian High of El Cajon, coached by Dale Peterson. He was recognized as a high school All-American. He was later inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.[6]

College career

Salaam attended the University of Colorado, where he played for the Colorado Buffaloes football team from 1992 to 1994. As a junior in 1994, Salaam had one of the best individual seasons in college football history, rushing for a school-record 2,055 yards and becoming only the fourth college running back to run for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He also amassed 24 touchdowns and helped lead Colorado to an 11–1 record, including a 41–24 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl, and a No. 3 finish in the final Associated Press Poll. The Buffaloes' only loss of the season was to the Big Eight Conference rival Nebraska Cornhuskers, which finished undefeated and ranked No. 1 in both the Associated Press and United Press International polls at season's end. Salaam had four consecutive 200-yard rushing games during the season, his best effort coming against the Texas Longhorns, when he set a school record with 362 yards total offense in a 34–31 Colorado win in Austin. He was a unanimous All-American and winner of the Heisman Trophy in December, beating out running back Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State and quarterbacks Steve McNair of Alcorn State and Kerry Collins of Penn State.[7] Salaam also won the Walter Camp Award and Doak Walker Award.[8][9][1]

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span Bench press
6 ft 0+78 in
(1.85 m)
228 lb
(103 kg)
32+18 in
(0.82 m)
9 in
(0.23 m)
21 reps
All values from NFL Combine[10]

The Chicago Bears selected Salaam in the first round, with the 21st overall selection, of the 1995 NFL Draft.[11][12] He played for the Bears from 1995 to 1997.[2] As a rookie, he rushed for 1,074 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.[11][13] However, he also lost 9 fumbles and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. Problems with injuries, fumbles, and marijuana use[14] led him to spend only three years with the Bears. During his two final years with Chicago, Salaam mustered only 608 combined yards.[15] The Bears traded Salaam to the Miami Dolphins before the 1998 season, but the trade was undone when Salaam failed a physical examination with Miami.[16][1] Salaam spent 1999 with the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers, but only played in two games for the Browns that year.[13]

Salaam briefly played in the XFL for the Memphis Maniax in 2001,[17] but injury cut his season short and the league folded after one season. He finished the year with 528 yards gained.[18]

Salaam launched what appeared to be a final attempt at an NFL career in 2002, beginning with a much publicized training at the Cris Carter Speed School.[19] He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers in 2003 but subsequently let go in August, in the second-to-last round of cuts, despite receiving accolades from then 49ers head coach Dennis Erickson.[20]

Salaam was signed by the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL) on February 20, 2004. He was then suspended by the Argos in May, ending his football career.[21]

NFL career statistics

Bold Career high
Year Team Games Rushing Receiving
GP GS Att Yds Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Avg Lng TD
1995 CHI 16 11 296 1,074 3.6 42 10 7 56 8.0 18 0
1996 CHI 12 6 143 496 3.5 32 3 7 44 6.3 11 1
1997 CHI 3 3 31 112 3.6 17 0 2 20 10.0 18 0
1999 CLE 2 0 1 2 2.0 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
Career 33 20 471 1,684 3.6 42 13 16 120 7.5 18 1


Salaam was found dead on December 5, 2016, in a park in Boulder, Colorado. An autopsy was performed because authorities found a note near the body and were investigating it as a possible suicide.[21][22]

On December 29, it was confirmed that the manner of death was suicide, specifically a gunshot wound to the head, in a report released by the Boulder County coroner's office.[23] Salaam's blood-alcohol content was reportedly three times the legal driving limit and he had THC in his system.[24][1]

Salaam's family did not consent to neuropathological tests that would have revealed whether he had previously sustained chronic head trauma, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. They declined[25] to have his brain tested to determine whether his depression[1] had been linked to such injuries from his days as a player.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Rohan, Tim (December 10, 2019). "Death of a Heisman Winner: The Fall of Rashaan Salaam". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b National Football League, Historical Players, Rashaan Salaam, Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  3. ^ Smith, Timothy (June 18, 1995). "PRO FOOTBALL: NOTEBOOK; Dad-Son Duos Run Up the Score". Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Chicago Tribune, "Dodging Doubt Like Tacklers," Chicago Tribune (April 30, 1995). Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  5. ^ databaseFootball.com, Players, Rashaan Salaam Archived January 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  6. ^ City News Service, "La Jolla Country Day grad Rashaan Salaam tops list of 50 best San Diego football players Archived August 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine," La Jolla Light (November 29, 2010). Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  7. ^ "Former Bear Rashaan Salaam Sells Off Heisman Ring," CBS Chicago (August 10, 2011). Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Salaam wins award". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. November 30, 1994. p. 5C. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  9. ^ Howell, Brian (June 1, 2016). "Former CU Buffs Bieniemy, Salaam on College Football Hall of Fame ballot". Longmont Times Call. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  10. ^ "Rashaan Salaam, Combine Results, RB - Colorado". nflcombineresults.com. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Catching up with former Chicago Bear Rashaan Salaam". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  12. ^ Pro Football Hall of Fame, Draft History, 1995 National Football League Draft Archived June 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  13. ^ a b Pro-Football-Reference.com, Players, Rashaan Salaam. He was also UPI NFC Rookie of the year.Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  14. ^ "Catching up with former Chicago Bear Rashaan Salaam". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  15. ^ Russell, Dalton (November 28, 2013). "Chicago Bears: Top Five Turkeys in Franchise History". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  16. ^ "Miami pulls out on trade with Bears". The Daily News. Associated Press. April 25, 1998. p. 3B. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  17. ^ Wiederer, Dan (December 7, 2016). "Former Bear Rashaan Salaam found dead at 42". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  18. ^ "Memphis Maniax Roster: Rashaan Salaam". Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  19. ^ "Future In The Past". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  20. ^ "49ers release Salaam". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  21. ^ a b "'94 Heisman winner Salaam dead at age 42". December 6, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  22. ^ "Rashaan Salaam, former Heisman winner and NFL first rounder, found dead in park". USA Today.
  23. ^ "Former Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam's death ruled a suicide". ESPN. December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  24. ^ "Autopsy says former CU star Rashaan Salaam shot himself in the head". The Denver Post. December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  25. ^ "Inside the troubled life and death of 1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam". ESPN.com. December 11, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2024.
  26. ^ "Rashaan Salaam's Family Declines to Test His Brain for Trauma". The New York Times. December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 31, 2016.