Former NFL wide receiver Reche Caldwell was shot and killed during a ‘targeted’ attack in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night.
The 41-year-old’s mother, Deborah Caldwell, confirmed his death to TMZ on Sunday.
The outlet reported Caldwell – a star football player at the University of Florida who went on to play for three NFL teams – was leaving for a date with his girlfriend when he went back into his home to grab a jacket.
The girlfriend said Caldwell was ‘ambushed’ by a ‘couple of people’ who jumped out of the bushes in an attempted robbery.
Caldwell was struck in the leg and chest and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Tampa police are still investigating the incident. They confirmed that a man in his 40s was found with a gunshot wound just before 11pm Saturday outside a home on East Hanna Avenue.
Police spokesman Eddy Durkin refused to identify the victim on Sunday, citing Marsy’s law, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018 that is meant to protect crime victims.
Authorities have not said how many suspects were involved or whether anyone has been arrested.
They said the attack appeared to have been targeted rather than a random act.
Deborah Caldwell described her son as a ‘good person who smiled all the time’.
‘He tried to help everyone he could. He was the type of guy who would take his shirt off his back and give it to you,’ she told TMZ.
Caldwell played collegiately at Florida for coach Steve Spurrier from 1998-2001 and posted 141 career receptions for 2,088 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The San Diego Chargers selected him in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he played 47 games in four seasons there, followed by a season each with the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins.
He had 152 career receptions for 1,851 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Legal troubles followed after Caldwell’s career.
In 2014, he was arrested for drug possession and intent to distribute and sentenced to prison, and in 2016, he was charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and pleaded guilty.
Several former teammates paid tribute to Caldwell following the news of his death.
Wes Welker, who met Caldwell in 2004 and played with him on the Chargers and the Patriots, tweeted: ‘Reche’s smile and attitude were contagious! My thoughts and prayers go out to Bubba Caldwell and his family!’
Former Patriots teammate Benjamin Watson tweeted: ‘Always kept us laughing and light hearted. Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories. Sad to hear about the passing of my teammate Reche Caldwell. May the Lord comfort his family during this time.’
Tampa police urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at http://www.crimestopperstb.com/ or send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips mobile application.