NFL

The Tragic Death of NFL Sack Artist Shane Dronett

A teammate of star quarterback John Elway on the Denver Broncos, Shane Dronett appeared destined for greatness.

At 6 feet 6 inches and 300 pounds, Dronett had the size and skills to become the NFL’s next elite sack artist. As they do with so many promising careers, injuries interfered and kept Dronett from joining the upper-echelon of pass-rushers.

This is Dronett’s story, from a capable defensive lineman to a tragic death before turning 40.

Shane Dronett played 10 NFL seasons

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The 54th overall pick in 1992, Shane Dronett didn’t need long to impress for the Denver Broncos.

Dronett had 6.5 sacks, forced a fumble, and recovered two loose balls in 16 games and two starts as a rookie. Promoted to the starting lineup in 1993, Dronett had seven sacks, picked off two passes, and forced a fumble in 16 starts.

Dronett played in all 16 games the next season and added another six sacks, giving him 19.5 through three years.

Dornett’s production dipped to two sacks in 13 games in 1995, however, and he began the 1996 season in Detroit. He didn’t have a sack in seven games there, nor in five games with the Falcons that year.

Still only 26, Dronett began reviving his career in 1997 with three sacks off the bench. A starting defensive tackle in 1998, Dronett had 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles on a Falcons team which lost to John Elway and the Broncos in Super Bowl 33.

Dronett had eight tackles and a recovered fumble in three playoff games. He added 6.5 more sacks in 1999 and played in Atlanta through the end of the 2001 season.

Dronett tragically died in January 2009

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Shane Dronett retired with 44 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 10 NFL seasons. 

Just over seven years after his career ended, Dronett tragically passed away. According to ESPN, Dronett — nine days after he turned 38 — died by suicide in January 2009. 

Dan Reeves, who coached Dronett in Denver and Atlanta, remembered the ex-lineman as an “integral part of our football team.”

“He was really a good player. He gave us a lot of depth there. He was a happy go lucky guy. He was fun to be around, was always smiling and was the type of player you look for on a football team.”

Dronett was survived by his wife, Chris, and their two daughters.

Shane Dronett was one of the NFL’s first major concussion deaths

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Shane Dronett battled various injuries, including concussions, throughout his career. 

Dronett’s family believed the brain trauma played a role in Dronett’s death. According to ProFootballTalk, scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy discovered that Dronett suffered from CTE. 

PFT reported that Chris Dronett, Shane’s wife, told CNN in 2011 that her husband had problems in the years after he retired. PFT also transcribed the quotes, which included Chris recalling her husband’s struggles in 2006. 

“He woke up in the middle of the night and started screaming and told everyone to run out of the house. He thought that someone was blowing up our house. It was very frightening.”

In a 2014 interview with KFDM in Texas, Dronett’s mother, Candace Henry, said CTE and football changed her son forever. 

“My son was gone, but his body was there,” Henry said. “His mind was not the mind of my child. It was the mind of somebody I didn’t know.”

The NFL has had various concussion problems and lawsuits throughout the years. Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez are among the players who died by suicide and had signs of CTE. 

In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.