HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Rashard Anderson, a former Carolina Panthers first-round pick has died at the age of 45, according to the Panthers.
Anderson starred as a cornerback for Jackson State University between 1996 and 1999. He would later be inducted into the JSU Sports Hall of Fame.
“The Jackson State University community mourns the loss of alumnus Rashard Anderson, one of our talented former student-athletes who made an indelible mark on the gridiron and throughout his professional career in the NFL,” said University President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D. “He will forever be remembered for his charismatic personality and his winning attitude. Our condolences to the Anderson family and friends.”
His performance in college was impressive enough for Anderson to be selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Panthers.
Anderson spent the next two seasons playing with the Panthers, appearing in 27 games and starting in nine games.
During his sophomore campaign, Anderson finished second in the NFL in fumble return yards behind future NFL Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.
Anderson’s promising career was derailed on May 23, 2002, when he was suspended for the entire 2002 NFL season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The suspension would be extended through the 2003 NFL season after he failed to meet the NFL’s requirement for reinstatement.
Anderson would ultimately be reinstated after the 2003 season but the Panthers released him afterward.
Anderson would not play another down in the NFL, with the remainder of his pro football career coming in a brief month-long stint with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in May 2005.
Once Anderson stepped away from football, he returned to where it all began. Spending time as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach at various schools in Jackson, Mississippi, where JSU is located.
“Today is a sad day for the JSU family,” JSU athletic director Ashley Robinson said. “Rashard was one of the best players in the history of our football program and an outstanding person. He attended our spring football game in April and was excited about the program returning to championship status. Rashard will always be remembered by Jackson State University, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
Anderson died on Wednesday, near his alma mater. The cause of his death is unknown as of Thursday.
“Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones,” the Panthers said in a statement.