By Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean
Titans wide receiver O.J. Murdock died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound this morning in Tampa, Fla., police said.
Murdock, 25, was found in his car in front of Middleton High School, his alma mater, at 8:30 a.m., police said. He was transported to Tampa General Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m. Eastern time.
"He was by himself," Tampa police spokesman Andrea Davis said. "... He was alive when fire rescue transported him."
Murdock did not report to training camp last Friday with the rest of the team, and the Titans placed him on their "did not report" list over the weekend. When asked about Murdock's absence, coach Mike Munchak said it was for personal reasons.
"He had some personal things come up," Munchak said on Saturday. "He called us, and we're hoping to see him tonight."
The Titans signed Murdock as an undrafted free agent on July 28, 2011. He spent the entire 2011 season on injured reserve after suffering a right Achilles injury early in his rookie training camp.
The team released a statement:
"We are shocked and saddened to hear of O.J. Murdock's death this morning. In his brief time here, a number of our players, coaches and staff had grown close to O.J., and this is a difficult time for them. He spent the last year battling back from an Achilles injury as he prepared for this year's training camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they try to cope with this tragedy."
Murdock's agent, Hadley Engelhard, described the receiver as a "hard worker, a great kid."
"When I spoke to him a week-and-a-half ago he was training his tail off and excited about his opportunities this year," Engelhard said. "This is obviously sad and right now our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
"It was tough on him last year, just like anyone on IR. But he had been working hard and was excited and eager about a new opportunity and being a part of the Titans."
Murdock was born Orenthal James Murdock on Feb. 15, 1987, and he was a national champion sprinter when he was 14 years old.
He was The Tampa Tribune's Male Athlete of the Year in 2005 after winning two state track championships and catching 57 passes for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Middleton. He was rated the 10th best receiver in the country.
He began his college football career at the University of South Carolina then went on to Pearl River Community College in Mississippi before spending two seasons at Fort Hays State in Kansas.
Murdock played in only four games for South Carolina and was suspended from the team indefinitely in October 2006 after he was charged with shoplifting $424.50 worth of clothing from a Tampa Macy's. He served a year of probation and the incident was expunged from his record.
At Pearl River, Murdock suffered a broken collarbone. Marshall University offered him a scholarship, but he had failed to earn his two-year degree and was ineligible.
"I almost didn't want to show my face around town," Murdock told The Tampa Tribune last year. "I easily could've given up right there, just thrown it all in the trash, gotten some job, given up for good. I finally focused on what I wanted to do not only in football, but in life."
Murdock found his footing at Fort Hays, posting 1,987 yards and 20 touchdowns in 21 games for the Division-II school. As a senior he had 60 catches for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game as well as the NFL scouting combine.