Football Players Who Died In 2023

Football-Players-Who-Died-In-2023

The year 2023 has been profoundly tragic for the football world, as the deaths of numerous players have rattled leagues globally. From local talents to international superstars across major competitions like the World Cup, Euro championships, MLS and the NFL, far too many remarkable careers in the sport were cut devastatingly short over the past year. Whether established veterans or promising young stars, these athletes made tremendous impacts at their clubs and national teams during prolific careers.

While some faced undisclosed medical conditions or accidents, others endured heartbreaking losses in their personal lives. As the football community worldwide grapples with untimely goodbyes to its cherished icons who shaped the game’s landscape, 2023 will be etched in memory for the profound grief that accompanied these irreplaceable deaths. The losses have sparked moving tributes and calls for change across various football spheres.

Gianluca Vialli

Gianluca Vialli, born on 9 July 1964 in the grandeur of Castello di Belgioioso in Cremona, Italy, emerged as a football luminary from a privileged upbringing. His senior career ignited at Cremonese in 1980 before Sampdoria beckoned in 1984, forming the prolific ‘Goal Twins’ partnership with Roberto Mancini. Sampdoria’s zenith included Serie A glory in 1991 and a Cup Winners’ Cup triumph in 1990, with Vialli scoring both final goals.

Gianluca Vialli

A record-breaking £12.5 million move to Juventus in 1992 marked a new era, contributing significantly to Serie A and UEFA Champions League triumphs. Vialli’s 1996 transition to Chelsea preceded his player-manager role, steering the team to FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup victories. Internationally, he graced two World Cups and Euro 1988 with Italy. Beyond the pitch, Vialli co-founded Tifosy, a sports investment platform. Appointed delegation chief for Italy in 2019, he witnessed their Euro 2020 triumph. Despite a valiant fight against pancreatic cancer, Vialli passed away on 6 January 2023, standing in the list of football players who died of cancer.

Anton Walkes

Anton Charles Walkes, born on 8 February 1997 in Lewisham, was a talented English footballer recognized for his roles as a defender or midfielder. Beginning his club career with Tottenham Hotspur in 2013, he made his first-team debut in the EFL Cup against Gillingham in September 2016. Walkes joined Atlanta United on loan in 2017, contributing significantly during the club’s inaugural Major League Soccer season. Subsequently, he played for League One’s Portsmouth before signing permanently in July 2018, winning the EFL Trophy in 2019.

Anton Walkes

Returning to Atlanta United in January 2020, Walkes later joined Charlotte FC in 2022. Tragically, on 18 January 2023, during a training camp in Miami, Florida, Walkes sustained injuries in a two-boat collision near Miami Marine Stadium. Rushed to the hospital, he succumbed to his injuries the following morning at the age of 25. Walkes left behind a legacy in English and American football, remembered not only for his on-field contributions but also for his personal life, including his daughter Ayla.

Jessie Lemonier

Jessie Nathaniel Lemonier, born on January 31, 1997, was an American football linebacker known for his stints with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Detroit Lions in the NFL, as well as the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL. After going undrafted in 2020, Lemonier signed with the Chargers and navigated multiple transitions between the active roster and practice squad during his tenure. He was waived by the Chargers on August 31, 2021, eventually finding a place in the Detroit Lions’ practice squad, later moving to the active roster.

Jessie Lemonier

In a surprising turn, Lemonier joined the Arizona Cardinals on May 17, 2022, but was released on August 17. The trajectory of his career took another shift as he was selected by the Arlington Renegades in the 2023 XFL Draft, yet he chose to sign with the Houston Gamblers of the USFL on December 31, 2022, with his playing rights traded to the Birmingham Stallions. Tragically, Jessie Lemonier passed away at the age of 25 on January 26, 2023, leaving behind the anticipation of impending fatherhood with his girlfriend. The cause of his untimely death remains undisclosed, marking him as one of the NFL football players who died young.

Conrad Dobler

Conrad Francis Dobler, born on October 1, 1950, was an American professional football guard renowned for his ten-season career in the NFL, notably with the St. Louis Cardinals. Selected in the fifth round of the 1972 NFL Draft, Dobler spent six seasons with the Cardinals, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1975 to 1977. Despite his on-field prowess, he gained notoriety for employing unsportsmanlike tactics against opponents, embracing his reputation as “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player.”

Conrad Dobler

Dobler’s aggressive style and infamous actions, including incidents like punching Joe Greene and kicking Merlin Olsen, contributed to his controversial image. Traded to the New Orleans Saints in 1978 and later playing for the Buffalo Bills, Dobler concluded his NFL journey after the 1981 season. Post-football, he parodied his tough image in a Miller Lite commercial and faced significant physical challenges, undergoing multiple surgeries, including nine knee replacements. Dobler passed away on February 13, 2023, at the age of 72, leaving behind a legacy marked by both accolades and controversy.

Bud Grant

Bud Grant, born on May 20, 1927, in Superior, Wisconsin, left an indelible mark on American professional football as both player and coach. Coaching the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings for 18 seasons, Grant led the team to four Super Bowls, clinching 11 division titles, one league championship, and three NFC championships. Prior to his Vikings stint, he steered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL, securing four Grey Cup victories.

Bud Grant

Grant’s sporting journey began as a standout three-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota. After NBA days with the Minneapolis Lakers, he transitioned to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. Known for instilling discipline, Grant became the first coach to guide teams to both the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl.

After retirement, Grant focused on outdoor pursuits and environmental advocacy. He passed away at home in Bloomington, Minnesota, on March 11, 2023, at 95, leaving behind a legacy of success and impact in football.

Chris Smith

Chris Smith, born on February 11, 1992, was an accomplished American defensive end in the NFL, showcasing his talent over eight seasons with various teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, and Houston Texans. A standout college player with the Arkansas Razorbacks, Smith entered the NFL as the 159th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Chris Smith

Known for his tenacity and versatility, Smith played a pivotal role for each team he joined. Tragically, he faced a personal loss on September 11, 2019, when his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, and the mother of his child, lost her life in a car accident. This incident marked a poignant moment in Smith’s life.

Regrettably, Chris Smith passed away on April 17, 2023, at the age of 31. The cause of his death remains unknown, leaving a somber note in the legacy of a dedicated and skilled defensive player.

Dave Wilcox

Dave Wilcox, born on September 29, 1942, was an illustrious American football linebacker, making a significant impact during his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers from 1964 to 1974. Standing at 6 ft 3 in and weighing 241 pounds, Wilcox, known as “the Intimidator,” earned acclaim for his disruptive play, particularly excelling in pass coverage with 14 career interceptions. Instrumental in the 49ers’ defensive prowess, he contributed to playoff appearances in 1970, 1971, and 1972.

Dave Wilcox

Off the field, hailing from Ontario, eastern Oregon, Wilcox, born into a family of six sisters and a brother, left an enduring legacy. His remarkable career includes seven Pro Bowl selections, five All-NFL honors, and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Tragically, Wilcox passed away on April 19, 2023, at the age of 80, shortly after undergoing heart surgery, marking the end of an era for one of football’s iconic figures.

Joe Kapp

Joe Kapp, a multifaceted figure in American football, distinguished himself as a player, coach, and executive. Born on March 19, 1938, he played college football for the California Golden Bears, earning All-American honors and leading the team to a 1958 Pacific Coast Conference championship. Kapp began his professional journey in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Calgary Stampeders and the BC Lions, achieving success and earning accolades.

Joe Kapp

Transitioning to the NFL, he played for the Minnesota Vikings, securing victory in the 1969 NFL Championship Game. Subsequently, Kapp joined the Boston Patriots, contributing to the team. His remarkable journey included playing in the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, and the Grey Cup, showcasing his versatility.

Post-football, Kapp ventured into coaching, leading the California Golden Bears and later becoming the general manager of the BC Lions. His diverse career extended to an acting stint and coaching in the Arena Football League.

In his later years, Joe Kapp battled Alzheimer’s disease, facing health challenges. He passed away on May 8, 2023, at the age of 85, succumbing to complications of the disease.

Jim Hines

Jim Hines (September 10, 1946 – June 3, 2023) was an esteemed American track and field athlete and NFL player, best known for holding the 100-meter world record for an impressive 15 years. Born in Dumas, Arkansas, he gained recognition in 1968 as the first man to officially break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters. Hines, a sprinter, achieved this feat at the U.S. national championships in Sacramento, California, in what track and field historians dubbed the “Night of Speed.” At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Hines won individual gold with a recorded time of 9.95 seconds, also contributing to the 4 × 100 m relay gold.

Jim Hines

Drafted by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 1968, Hines spent time on the practice squad and played for the Dolphins in 1969. He later had a brief stint with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1970. After his sports career, Hines worked with inner-city youth in Houston and on oil rigs. His world record stood until 1983. Jim Hines passed away on June 3, 2023, in Hayward, California, at the age of 76.

Clark Haggans

Clark Cromwell Haggans (January 10, 1977 – June 19, 2023) was an accomplished American NFL linebacker, notably playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers from 2000 to 2012. Starting as a walk-on defensive end at Colorado State University, he earned a scholarship, setting an all-time sack record and entering the university’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Clark Haggans

Haggans played a pivotal role in the Steelers’ Super Bowl XL victory and reached Super Bowl XLIII with the Cardinals. Beyond his on-field achievements, he made a lasting impact through philanthropy, being the inaugural NFL player to endorse the Black Out Child Abuse Campaign in 2012.

Tragically, Clark Haggans passed away on June 19, 2023, at the age of 46, leaving behind a legacy marked by athletic excellence and a commitment to social causes.

Ryan Mallett

Ryan Mallett, born on June 5, 1988, was an American football quarterback known for his tenure in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, and Baltimore Ravens from 2011 to 2017. A standout in college, Mallett played for the Michigan Wolverines and later the Arkansas Razorbacks, earning recognition in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Ryan Mallett

Post-football, Mallett transitioned to coaching, serving as the head football coach at White Hall High School in Arkansas. Tragically, on June 27, 2023, at the age of 35, Mallett drowned in Destin, Florida. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office reported that he was unable to reach the safety of a sandbar while swimming with his girlfriend, and rip currents were present in the area. The NFL expressed deep sadness over his passing, offering condolences to his family and loved ones.

Fred Willis

Born on December 9, 1947, in Natick, Massachusetts, Frederick F. Willis III, known as Fred Willis, made a significant impact as an American NFL running back for the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Oilers. Raised in Natick, Willis showcased his athletic prowess in football and hockey during high school and continued to excel at Boston College, earning All-America honors in both sports.

Fred Willis

Drafted in 1971, Willis made history as the first running back in the NFL to secure the pass receiving title. Beyond his achievements on the field, he became a union representative for the NFL Players Association and ventured into entrepreneurship, founding HPN Neurologic for concussion diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, Fred Willis passed away on July 4, 2023, in Natick, leaving behind a legacy of athletic prowess, player advocacy, and healthcare initiatives.

Alex Collins

Born on August 26, 1994, Alex Collins, an American NFL running back, made a notable impact during his career, playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and a stint with the Memphis Showboats in the United States Football League (USFL). Hailing from South Plantation High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Collins excelled in multiple sports, showcasing his talents in football, basketball, lacrosse, and track.

Alex Collins

Collins rose to prominence at the University of Arkansas, earning recognition as the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year. His college career saw impressive achievements, including rushing for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Tragically, Collins’s life was cut short when he succumbed to a fatal traffic collision on the evening of August 13, 2023, in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. Riding a motorcycle, he collided with an SUV, resulting in his immediate death at the scene.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams, born on May 18, 1987, had a notable career as an American NFL wide receiver, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Starting at Riverside Institute of Technology, Williams showcased his football prowess with impressive high school stats. At Syracuse, he earned recognition as an all-Big East second-team selection in 2007, but faced suspension in 2008 and left the team in 2009 after a car accident.

Mike Williams

In the NFL, Williams made a significant impact with the Buccaneers, setting franchise records in his rookie season. Traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2014, he faced challenges, and his NFL career concluded with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.

Tragically, after his football career, Williams experienced a severe worksite accident on September 1, 2023, involving a falling steel beam. Despite initially positive signs after surgery, his health deteriorated, leading to his death on September 12, 2023, at the age of 36.

Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus, born on December 9, 1942, was an iconic American football linebacker known for his fierce playing style and relentless effort. A Chicago Bears legend from 1965 to 1973, Butkus earned eight Pro Bowl invitations, was a six-time first-team All-Pro, and twice named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. His intimidating presence made him one of the greatest linebackers in football history. Beginning his football career in Chicago, he played for the Illinois Fighting Illini before joining the Bears as the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. His tackling prowess earned him the title of the most feared tackler of all time by the NFL Network in 2009.

Dick Butkus

Post-football, Butkus ventured into acting, sports commentary, and philanthropy through the Butkus Foundation. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and his jersey, No. 51, was retired by the Bears. Dick Butkus passed away on October 5, 2023, at the age of 80, due to a stroke, with underlying causes including atrial fibrillation, atherosclerosis, and hypercholesterolemia.

Bobby Charlton

Sir Bobby Charlton CBE, born on October 11, 1937, was an English football legend, excelling as a midfielder and center-forward. Integral to England’s 1966 World Cup win, he also clinched the Ballon d’Or that year. Playing predominantly for Manchester United, Charlton survived the 1958 Munich air disaster and led the team to triumphs like the 1963 FA Cup, 1965 and 1967 Football League titles, and the 1968 European Cup.

Bobby Charlton

Internationally, Charlton earned 106 caps for England across four World Cups, setting a national record. His prolific scoring at both club and international levels endured, marking him as a football icon.

Charlton, who engaged in charitable work and had a familial feud with brother Jack, faced a diagnosis of dementia in 2020. He passed away on October 21, 2023, at 86, attributed to complications from a fall at his nursing home, including “trauma in the lungs, a fall, and dementia.” Manchester United paid tribute during a Champions League match, and his funeral took place on November 13.

D. J. Hayden

Derek Sherrard “D. J.” Hayden Jr. (June 27, 1990 – November 11, 2023) was an American football cornerback, known for his career in the NFL. Playing college football for the Houston Cougars, he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Hayden also had stints with the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Washington Football Team.

D. J. Hayden

Hayden’s college years showcased his talent, earning him accolades like first-team All-Conference USA despite a life-threatening injury in his senior year. Projected as a top cornerback prospect, he faced physical challenges during the NFL Combine due to recovery. Tragically, D. J. Hayden passed away at 33 in a traffic collision in Houston on November 11, 2023. The incident involved a car running a red light, resulting in six fatalities, including Hayden and two other former University of Houston players.

Raphael Dwamena

Raphael Dwamena, born on September 12, 1995, in Nkawkaw, Ghana, showcased early football promise in the Red Bull Ghana developmental program. Joining Red Bull Salzburg’s youth team in 2014, he earned accolades like the Golden Shoe. Dwamena’s career led him through FC Liefering, Austria Lustenau, and FC Zürich, where he contributed to winning the 2016–17 Swiss Challenge League. Hindered by a failed medical, his Premier League move collapsed, redirecting him to La Liga’s Levante UD and a loan at Real Zaragoza.

Raphael Dwamena

Facing heart condition setbacks, he moved to Vejle Boldklub in 2020 before returning to Austria with Blau-Weiß Linz. His Austrian career ended abruptly in 2021 after a collapse during a match against TSV Hartberg. Dwamena made a resilient return with BSC Old Boys in 2022 and later joined Egnatia Rrogozhinë. On July 13, 2023, he triumphed with two goals in a UEFA Conference League match. Tragically, on November 11, 2023, during a Kategoria Superiore match, Dwamena collapsed and succumbed to sudden cardiac arrest, his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) removed a year prior. This marks a somber chapter in the realm of football, underscoring the risks that football players who died on the field face.

Ivan Čeliković

Ivan Čeliković, born on April 10, 1989, was a Croatian professional footballer who played as a left-back. Beginning his career at local club Budućnost Rešetari, he later joined Hajduk Split. Čeliković’s journey included spells at NK Konavljanin, NK Dugopolje, NK Solin, and Inter Zaprešić, achieving success in the Prva HNL. In 2017, he moved to North Macedonian club Shkëndija.

Ivan Čeliković

Internationally recognized, Čeliković contributed to European competitions, showcasing his skills. His recent involvement was with the Konavle Football Academy. The cause of death, occurring on December 11, 2023, at the age of 34 in Čilipi, has not been disclosed.

The Croatian sports community mourns the unexpected loss of this former Hajduk talent, remembering him for his cheerful demeanor and impactful contributions to various Croatian football teams, especially Inter Zaprešić. Tributes, especially from his former club Konavljanin, highlight his friendly nature on and off the field. The reflections underscore the deep sadness felt by many at his untimely departure, marking him among the football players who died recently.

Conclusion

In the wake of these heartbreaking losses that have left an indelible mark on the football community, the collective grief echoes through stadiums and fans worldwide. As we remember these iconic figures, let us not only celebrate their on-field brilliance but also cherish the passion, dedication, and joy they brought to the beautiful game.

Their legacies transcend the scoresheets, inspiring generations to come. In paying tribute to these extraordinary athletes, the football world unites in mourning while pledging to honor their memory by upholding the spirit and camaraderie that defines the sport they loved and enriched.


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