Jason Hairston had recently gone on a hunting trip that the president’s son shared on Instagram. Just a few days later, the former NFL player was found dead from an apparent suicide.
The former San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos player went on to found the hunting gear company KUIU after he left the league, and forged a friendship with Donald Trump’s eldest son. As the New York Post reported, the pair had gone on a far-flung hunting trip just before Hairston took his life this week at the age of 47.
Hairston’s death was announced by the company he founded, which noted that the former NFL player “took his own life.”
“We are shocked and saddened to announce the tragic passing of KUIU founder Jason Hairston. His legacy lives on in KUIU’s spirit of relentless innovation,” the company wrote on its social media pages.
Donald Trump Jr. also remembered his friend, saying in a statement posted online that Hairston was “an inspiration to all outdoorsmen and women for generations to come.”
“Jason, I have no words. I will always remember our adventures and sharing a campfire with you. They will be some of my fondest experiences in the outdoors. You were and will continue to be an inspiration to all outdoorsmen and women for generations to come. Thanks for the friendship and the memories buddy. I’m going to miss you. R.I.P,” Trump Jr. wrote on Instagram.
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Jason, I have no words. I will always remember our adventures and sharing a campfire with you. They will be some of my fondest experiences in the outdoors. You were and will continue to be an inspiration to all outdoorsmen and women for generations to come. Thanks for the friendship and the memories buddy. I’m going to miss you. R.I.P @kuiu_official
Jason Hairston was open about the health effects he suffered from his time in the NFL. He revealed that he was suffering from chronic traumatic encepholopathy, a cognitive brain disease common among people who have suffered repeated head traumas. There has been a spike in the number of NFL players diagnosed with CTE, though a complete diagnosis is impossible until after the person has died and the brain can be examined.
Hairston explained that his style of play left him very vulnerable to brain injuries.
“I played linebacker, and the way I played the game, I led with my head. I played the way they tell us not to play now,” Hairston told CNBC in 2016. “I have all the symptoms of CTE.”
Jason Hairston is one of a number of former NFL players to take their own lives after suffering brain injuries. Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau also took his own life, and an autopsy revealed that he was suffering from a degenerative brain disease. Signs of CTE were also found in other NFL players who committed suicide, including Shane Dronett and Terry Luther Long.