The NFL community mourns the death of Reche Caldwell. The former wide receiver, who spent seven years in the league and also was a member of the New England Patriots at one point, was shot and killed in his hometown of Tampa on Saturday night as first reported by TMZ and since confirmed by authorities. Caldwell was just 41 years old at the time of his death.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, police responded to a call about a shooting just before 11 p.m. on Saturday and found Caldwell in the yard of his home. While officers tries to help him until a fire-rescue crew transported him to a local hospital, he succumbed to his wounds a short time after the shooting. Caldwell’s mother, Deborah, was reportedly informed of the at around 11:30.
“He was set up. I’m going to follow it all the way to the end. [...] You get killed right here in your hometown? You made a statement here, and y’all just took it away from us?” she said according to the Times. Police said that the incident did “not appear to be a random act.”
Caldwell was born in Tampa in 1979, and began a football career there that took him to the University of Florida and later the NFL: the then-San Diego Chargers selected him in the second round of the draft in 2002. Following a four-year stint with the Chargers, Caldwell arrived in New England, where he produced the best season of his career in 2006.
The organization shared the following social media post after Caldwell’s passing was confirmed:
We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Patriot Reche Caldwell.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) June 7, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/mxBtkTXTKD
Even though he was the Patriots’ leading receiver in 2006 — he caught 61 passes for 760 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season and added 16 more catches for 176 yards and another score in the playoffs — Caldwell’s first campaign in New England ended in disappointment: he had a pair of costly drops in the team’s AFC Championship loss in Indianapolis. The plays still haunted him years later.
“He heard all the jokes and criticisms, and it broke his heart,” his brother, Andre, told ESPN back in 2016. “The way the game kicked him to the curb like an unwanted stepchild hurt him mentally and haunted him. Reche got a little bit of a selfish attitude out of it, like, ‘Forget everybody else, I’m gonna start worrying about me.”
After the game, Caldwell’s career took a turn for the worse: he was released by the Patriots ahead of the 2007 regular season, and had only minimal success after joining the Washington Redskins a short time later. He went on to sign with the then-St. Louis Rams the following year but failed to make their roster, effectively ending his career in 2008 after six full seasons and 75 combined regular season and playoff games.
Following his retirement, Caldwell had multiple run-ins with the law. He was arrested and charged with operating an illegal gambling operation in 2014, and later that same year was also charged with drug possession and an intent to distribute. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison as well as three years’ probation. Last December, Caldwell faced federal charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He was scheduled to be sentenced in August.