Donald “Reche” Caldwell Jr., who starred at the University of Florida and played six seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver, was killed Saturday night in his hometown of Tampa, Fla. He was 41.
Caldwell’s girlfriend and mother confirmed his death to TMZ on Sunday. Florida — along with the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Redskins — released statements about Caldwell’s death on social media.
The Tampa Bay Police Department has yet to identify Caldwell as the victim.
“I am saddened to hear the news about Reche,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement Sunday. “He is remembered for his solid contributions to our team. My thoughts and prayers are with Reche’s family.”
Caldwell’s girlfriend said the former NFL wideout, who was taking her out on a date, was ambushed by a couple of people who jumped out of bushes in an attempt to rob him, according to TMZ. The outlet said Caldwell was shot in the leg and chest.
Police said the incident didn’t appear to be a random act, noting that Caldwell was likely targeted. According to police, Tampa Fire Rescue transported him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“He was a good person who smiled all of the time,” Caldwell’s mother, Deborah, said. “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.”
After helping lead the Gators to an SEC championship in 2000, the Chargers selected Caldwell in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He played with the Chargers until 2005 and signed with the Patriots in 2006.
During his lone season (2006) in New England, Caldwell led the team with 760 receiving yards. He was with the Patriots the next off-season until being released at the conclusion of the preseason.
Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady paid his respects to Caldwell with two posts on his Instagram story Sunday.
Caldwell had a one-year stint with the Redskins in 2007. He went to training camp with the then-St. Louis Rams in 2008, but he was cut before the start of the regular season.
In 71 career games with the Chargers, Patriots and Redskins, Caldwell caught 152 passes for 1,851 yards and 11 touchdowns.