Former NFL wide receiver Donald "Reche" Caldwell was killed on Saturday night in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. He was 41 years old. His mother confirmed the news to TMZ while the police told ESPN that there had been a homicide. However, authorities did not confirm that the victim was Caldwell.
According to Caldwell's mother, he was preparing to take his girlfriend out on a date. He went back into the house to grab a jacket but was "ambushed" by a "couple of people" intent on robbing him. They shot Caldwell in the leg and the chest. Someone called 911, but Caldwell's mother said that he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital due to the severity of the injuries.
A standout wide receiver for the Florida Gators, Caldwell helped lead the Gainesville team to the SEC Championship in 2000. Following three seasons and 18 touchdowns, he landed with the San Diego Chargers as a second-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons in Southern California, totaling 950 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
"So sad to hear this! Reche's smile and attitude were contagious! My thoughts and prayers go out to Bubba Caldwell and his family!" former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker tweeted on Sunday morning. The two players crossed paths during the 2007 offseason, but Caldwell ultimately spent the year with the Washington Redskins, his final in the NFL.
Caldwell's best season in the NFL took place in 2006 when he was a member of the New England Patriots. He posted a career-high 760 yards and four touchdowns, helping Tom Brady and company reach the AFC Championship Game. However, the Patriots lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 38-34, a game in which he dropped two crucial passes. The Patriots later replaced him with Randy Moss.
"The way the game kicked him to the curb like an unwanted stepchild hurt him mentally and haunted him," Caldwell's little brother Andre told ESPN The Magazine. "Reche got a little bit of a selfish attitude out of it. Like, 'Forget everybody else, I'm gonna start worrying about me.'"
Caldwell dealt with several legal issues following his time in the NFL. He was arrested in 2014 for drug possession and intent to sell and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison, as well as three years probation. He also faced several charges for running a multimillion-dollar gambling house. In January of 2020, he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He was one of several former NFL players that filed nearly $4 million in false insurance claims over 18 months.