Rashard Anderson, the most recent Jackson State football player to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, has died, according to a school spokesperson. He was 45.
Anderson and receiver Sylvester Morris, were the first JSU duo to be selected in the first round since Walter Payton and Robert Brazile in 1975. Morris went 21st overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000. Anderson was selected 23rd overall by the Carolina Panthers.
“Today is a sad day for the JSU family,” Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson said in a statement. “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, a Forrest, Mississippi, native, played in 27 NFL games over two seasons with the Panthers, making nine starts. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive back made 65 tackles and recorded one interception.
Anderson was suspended for the 2002 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and his suspension was eventually extended through the 2003 season. He was reinstated after the 2003 season and was released by the Panthers.
He later had a brief stint with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian football league in 2005.
Following his playing career, Anderson worked several jobs including being a substitute teacher and assistant football coach at Callaway and Murrah high schools in Jackson.
“Devastated over this…Rest in heaven my friend,” tweeted Jackson State football play-by-play announcer Rob Jay.