In Memory of My Friend Darryl

Darryl Usher with the Arizona Cardinals

As a full time spectator, I had plenty of time to observe some of the other players.  There was one player in particular, a talented little wide receiver from the University of Illinois.  He had blazing speed and the grace of a gazelle.  There was something very unique about him as a player and a person.  He was small in stature, but fearless.  This was Darryl Usher and he would be a significant part of my life..

​I met Darryl when he came to the New England Patriots from the University of Illinois, where he was a star on the college football scene.  I could tell there was something special about him and we soon discovered that we shared a mutual passion for the game we played and the dedication needed to excel at it.  We became fast and best friends.  He was funny and entertaining, and as I was, he was extremely spiritual.  For all his talent he was humble with an attitude that was sublime.

We left the Patriots, moving on to different teams.  Darryl went to Cleveland and I landed in Pittsburgh with the Steelers.  That gave us the chance to play against each other and since both of us were highly competitive, we looked forward to that day.  But we were friends first and so we met for lunch on the afternoon before the game. Over that meal we shared the hopes and dreams we had for ourselves, our families and our future.  It was August 19, 1989 and we sat together and made a solemn oath.  Among the many pledges we made were to be our brother’s keeper, to become servants of God, to be loyal husbands and to become the godfathers of each other’s children.  We would be neighbors, business partners and give back to our community.
Darryl Usher with the Arizona Cardinals

We never got to fulfill that oath.  Less than one year later, in February 1990, I was in the hospital where I was holding my newborn daughter, my wife having given birth only moments before.  It was a joyous occasion as I walked her around in her pink blanket.  It was the greatest day of my life.

Then the phone rang and the joy became horror.  Darryl, at the age of 25, had been shot.   My wife Renita watched as tears rolled down from my eyes.  “Darryl’s dead. My best friend is dead,” I told her.  He was shot to death in his apartment in Phoenix by his girlfriend’s jealous ex-boyfriend.  I had a new life in one hand while receiving death in the other.  This became the most painful and bitter moment of my life.

It may have been 1990 – almost 20 years ago – but the memory of that day has never left me.  This week’s tragic death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair took me back to the horrible moment when the voice on the phone told me about Darryl. Darryl’s death sent me into a tailspin; my life lost so much meaning.  I began to engage in destructive behavior and I lost my way.

I found my faith, though, and renewed myself as a spiritual being.  I fought hard to find my way back, facing and overcoming this adversity. Today I can look back at that time with sadness but feel blessed that I had the chance to meet and become friends with such a fine man.

It is my fervent wish for all of those who are a part of Steve McNair’s life – his wife and children, family and friends, as well as former teammates – that they will one day find the way through the pain.  For now their memories are too fresh so for them I send prayers for strength and love.  God bless all of them.

Peace and Blessings,