Keith McCants dies at 53: Police investigating after former NFL first-round pick found dead in Florida

Written by on September 2, 2021

Former NFL linebacker Keith McCants was found dead on Thursday morning in Florida after police responded to a call in St. Petersburg. The former Buccaneers first-round pick was 53 years old. 

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office told that they’re investigating the circumstances surrounding McCants’ death. According to The Athletic, authorities believe that McCants’ death was caused by a drug overdose. 

“It appears it was a drug overdose, but we are awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner’s office,” sheriff’s spokesperson Amanda Sinni said. “This is still an open investigation.”

McCants hit hard times after his career and was even featured in an ESPN “30 for 30” episode in 2012 about players who went broke after their playing career. Over the past decade, McCants spoke openly about his abuse of drugs and painkillers. 

“Before [my career was] over with I was consuming over 183 pills a week, not knowing the effects it had on my liver or my kidneys,” McCants told Vice Sports in 2015. “Or, more importantly, developing a split personality with violent tendencies that my family had to deal with.”

McCants went to college at Alabama where he had a decorated career that included being named an All-American in 1989. His NFL career started in 1990 when the Buccaneers made him the fourth overall pick in the draft. 

With the high pick came high expectations which McCants was never really able to live up to. After three years in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers decided to release him. McCants would play three more seasons in the NFL with two different teams (Oilers and Cardinals). The connection between those two spots is Buddy Ryan. The former NFL coach was a defensive coordinator for the Oilers in 1993 and when he got hired as the Cardinals coach in 1994, he brought McCants with him to Arizona. 

Over the course of his career, McCants played in a total of 88 NFL games with 39 starts. During his time on the field, McCants racked up 13.5 sacks and 192 career tackles. McCants also scored one career touchdown, which came in 1995 for the Cardinals. 

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