The Tragic Death of NFL Guard and Actor Keith Loneker

Although Keith Loneker played a much different position than the likes of Jim Brown or Thomas Jones, the three walked very similar paths at one point.

A standout offensive lineman at Kansas, Loneker played several seasons with the Los Angeles Rams in the 1990s. When his NFL days ended, Loneker transitioned into acting and even had an opportunity to work with Samuel L. Jackson.

It appeared that Loneker had a bright acting career ahead of him. Unfortunately, Loneker tragically died at age 46.

Keith Loneker played parts of four NFL seasons

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Originally from Roselle Park, N.J., Keith Loneker earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Kansas.

Loneker played well at Kansas, but not enough to be selected in the 1993 NFL draft. When an opportunity to join the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent arose, Loneker packed his bags and traveled to California.

Loneker impressed so much as a rookie that he joined the starting lineup later that year. Along the way, he blocked for a young Jerome Bettis, who the Rams had selected with the 10th overall pick earlier that year.

Loneker played in 19 games and started five with the Rams from 1993-95. He spent part of the 1996 season with the Atlanta Falcons before retiring.

Loneker later became an actor

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Athletes going into acting isn’t anything new, and Keith Loneker joined the club in the late-1990s.

Years before Thomas Jones became a fan favorite as Comanche on Luke Cage, Loneker filled the role of an NFL player-turned-actor portraying criminals in various projects.

Loneker’s most notable role may have been in Lakeview Terrace, a 2008 movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington. Loneker played Clarence Darlington, a criminal and police informant for Jackson, who portrayed a police officer.

His offensive line frame allowed Loneker to easily pass for an imposing criminal or threatening presence in movies.

Loneker’s official IMDb page credited him with appearing in 19 projects, including in Superbad, the 2007 comedy, as Wild Bill Cherry.

Keith Loneker tragically died at age 47

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Keith Loneker’s final acting appearance was in The Vault, a horror film featuring Clifton Collins Jr. and James Franco.

The movie came out in September 2017, just over two months after Loneker died of cancer. Loneker passed away only one day after he turned 46.

Loneker’s son, Keith Jr., shared in December 2016 that his father had been diagnosed with cancer a month before. 

In an interview with The Kansas City Star, former Kansas offensive lineman Chip Budde fondly remembered his teammate and close friend.

“I’ve been talking back and forth all day with guys, teammates of Keith and I and everybody is just … everybody is heartbroken. He got about as much out of life in 46 years as anybody could hope to.”

Keith Loneker Jr. honored his father in the same uniform his father wore. After starting his career at Baker University, an NAIA school in Baldwin City, Kan., Keith Jr. played at Kansas from 2016-18. 

A rangy linebacker, Loneker totaled 158 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a two-yard interception with the Jayhawks.

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