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Chargers Players Shocked by Former Teammate's Suicide

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USA TODAY
September 26, 2013 Thursday
FA CHASE EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 1C
842 words
Suicide staggers ex-teammates;
Oliver was joy to be around, players say
Lindsay H. Jones, @ByLindsayJones, USA TODAY Sports

Former San Diego Chargers defensive back Paul Oliver died from a self-inflicted gunshot in Marietta, Ga., on Tuesday, authorities said, leaving his former teammates and coaches stunned and wondering what had happened to the 29-year-old who last played in the NFL two years ago.

Oliver played for the Chargers from 2007 to 2011, where he was a teammate of Quentin Jammer, now with the Denver Broncos.

"He was a good friend of mine. Great guy. Great guy," Jammer told USA TODAY Sports. "I mean, the early reports were that he committed suicide, and he just didn't seem like that type of guy. You never know what somebody is going through, what's going on in somebody's life.

"I hadn't talked to him in a while. I wish now I could reach out to him. If I'd have known," Jammer said, his voice trailing off.

Oliver killed himself with a handgun about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, said Mike Bowman, public information officer for the Cobb County Police Department, though Bowman said Wednesday that he did not know the location of the wound.

Jammer recalled Oliver as a talented player whom the Chargers converted to safety after Oliver arrived in San Diego in 2007. The Chargers released Oliver in the 2011 offseason but re-signed him later that year because of injuries to other players. Oliver also spent time with the New Orleans Saints.

Chargers free safety Eric Weddle, another of Oliver's close friends on the team, said he was devastated.

"I thought about it all practice," he said. "Words can't really express how as an ex-teammate -- I was with him for five years -- you have so many memories and so many thoughts. Football was the last thing I was thinking about out there today. It's unfortunate. You feel for his family and his two kids."

Weddle said he talked to Oliver about a year ago. "Wish I would have reached out to him more and helped him in some way," he said.

The Chargers selected Oliver in the fourth round of the 2007 supplemental draft, and he played in 57 games, with 12 starts. He became a free agent in 2012.

"Everyone in the Chargers family is sad today after hearing the news about Paul," the team said in a statement. "He was part of our family for five years. At just 29 years old, he had a lifetime in front of him."

Georgia star

Oliver was a star cornerback at Georgia, where he had seven interceptions, 114 tackles and three sacks during his three seasons. He turned pro and entered the supplemental draft after he was ruled academically ineligible before the 2007 season.

Georgia coach Mark Richt described Oliver's death as heartbreaking Wednesday morning on a conference call.

"I was crushed this morning when I heard it, quite frankly," Richt said. "I haven't been able to keep it off my mind, to be honest with you. We have to find a way to reach out and help any way we can."

A native of Kennesaw, Ga., and graduate of Harrison High School, Oliver redshirted in his freshman year before playing the 2004-06 seasons for the Bulldogs.

One of Oliver's college highlights came in the 2006 Georgia-Georgia Tech game, when he held receiver Calvin Johnson, now a Pro Bowl player with the Detroit Lions, to two catches for 13 yards and had an interception in the final minute to seal a 15-12 win for the Bulldogs.

Oliver's death hits a Chargers franchise still reeling from the 2012 suicide of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, who played 20 seasons in the NFL and shot himself in the chest at 43. A study of Seau's brain revealed he had suffered from a chronic degenerative brain disease.

Jammer, who played for the Chargers from 2000 to 2012, just shook his head as he was asked about another Chargers tragedy.

"I'm still waiting around to see what the truth is. Committing suicide, no one really knows, except maybe his family," Jammer said.

It is also another tragedy for the Cobb County football community. Kenny McKinley, a former Broncos wide receiver from Mableton, Ga., died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2009 at 23.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday that McKinley and Oliver faced each other twice in high school. Their college teams also played twice when McKinley was at South Carolina and Oliver at Georgia.

'Fun guy to be around'

The Chargers' Weddle recalled Oliver as the "happiest guy ever."

"Just a joy to be around," Weddle said. "Funny. Charismatic. Worked his tail off. Also quiet, reserved, at the same time. Just a great teammate and great friend. Great person. Never once said something bad about anyone.

"He was just a fun guy to be around. You could always count on him on the field and off."

Tight end Antonio Gates also remembered laughing with Oliver.

"You feel fortunate to be a part of his life the time he was here. I would never expect a guy like that to do certain things or make those type of judgments about life. It makes you appreciate life, makes you appreciate your family and kids. You just never know. Life is so short."

Oliver is survived by his wife, the former Chelsea Young, and two children. Funeral arrangements had not been finalized.

Contributing: Gary Mihoces; Forrest Lee in San Diego

September 26, 2013

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