WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Former Purdue football offensive guard and former NFL player Uchechukwu Nwaneri died Friday in the West Lafayette home of his wife, according to West Lafayette police and Tippecanoe County Coroner Carrie Costello.
Nwaneri drove up from Georgia, police said, and he was at his wife’s West Lafayette’s house in the 2600 block of Willow Drive when he apparently collapsed, Costello said.
Nwaneri’s wife found him unresponsive in a bedroom in her house about 1 a.m. Friday and called 911, Costello said.
An autopsy performed Monday indicated there were no signs of foul play, Costello said.
Preliminary results indicate a possible heart attack, pending toxicology results, Costello said.
A September 2006 Journal & Courier report written by now retired sports report and columnist Tom Kubat indicated Nwaneri started his final season as a offensive guard.
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Nwaneri’s parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1973. His first name means “God’s wish,” according to Kubat’s September 2006 report.
Nwaneri’s time on the Purdue gridiron was marred by a July 14, 2005, fight during practice with teammate Ryan Noblet.
During the fight, Nwaneri threw a punch that broke Noblet’s jaw.
Nwaneri was suspended from Purdue for the 2005 fall semester, according to Kubat’s reports in the J&C.
The J&C reached Noblet, who said, “I am sorry to hear of his passing.”
Nwaneri returned for the spring semester, and returned to the team in 2006 for his final season as a Boilermaker.
Several of Nwaneri’s teammates offered insight into his time at Purdue and beyond.
“When you spend hours and hours together you develop a bond that sticks with you through the years,” said Brian Wang, Nwaneri’s teammate between 2002 and 2004.
“Uche loved to make people laugh, loved to learn and was always looking ahead at what was next. A successful entrepreneur after football,” Wang said.
“My brother, Uche, was a great soul to be around,” said former Purdue teammate Josh Ferguson. “He kept us smiling with a high spirit that was full of energy.
“In light of his recent death, I want to make clear that his presence had a positive impact on everyone he came across,” Ferguson wrote in a prepared comment.
“We all had our moments in life that we had to learn from,” Ferguson wrote. “One incident as a young adult doesn’t change who he was to many. Uche was loved by everyone! A man of his character will surely be missed.”
Chase Lecklider, a wide receiver on the Boilermakers’ squad between 2002 and 2006, said “Uche was a great teammate.
“We all had our moments, Uche was no different, but he was just a great teammate and friend. He made us laugh for five seasons together,” Lecklider said.
Nwaneri was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, and he played seven seasons with the Jaguars, according to pro-football-reference.com.