University of Southern California Athletics confirmed Saturday that former Trojan safety Kevin Ellison died this week at the age of 31. Ellison played for USC under the leadership of Pete Carroll from 2005 through 2008. Reign of Troy reported that his cause of death has not been released, but other reports described mysterious circumstances surrounding the tragedy. An autopsy has been scheduled.
ESPN reported that Ellison’s brother Chris said Kevin was disoriented and walking along the 5 Freeway located in San Fernando Valley Thursday when he died.
“He was disoriented and didn’t know where he was at. I’m sure he was trying to come home and find his family. We love him so much.”
He described his brother as someone who was loved by everyone who knew him. “His smile and personality would light up a room.” He also indicated that Kevin had been working through some mental health issues in recent years and that his family had done “everything they could” to try to help him.
Kevin Ellison had an outstanding career with the USC Trojans, starting for the team three of the years he was there and being chosen twice as an All-Pac-10 first team selection. Ellison was known for his hard hits. He was considered one of the all-time best defensive players during his 2008 season, which ended with an injury that kept him out of the last five games of the season.
He was a sixth-round draft pick in 2009, selected by the San Diego Chargers where he played a few games before the team released him after he was arrested for suspicion of possessing a controlled substance. That was followed by a brief stint on the Seattle Seahawks’ offseason roster under Peter Carroll in 2010. In all, over the course of his football career, Kevin Ellison had 174 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 18 deflections, and five interceptions.
Ellison coached high school football for a while and had one run-in with the law following his football career. In 2012, he was arrested for arson in Washington. He told investigators that God had told him to set the bed in his Liberty Lake’s Big Trout Lodge ablaze. He was playing for the Arena Football League’s Spokane Shock at the time. The fire caused $50,000 in damage. Ellison paid $80,000 in restitution, and the case was dismissed.
People took to social media Saturday to share their grief at Ellison’s passing. Former teammate Brian Cushing expressed his sadness on Instagram.
“This hurts more than anything I could’ve ever imagined. Kev you were the best friend and teammate anyone could’ve asked for. Coming in as freshman together I always admired your heart and dedication. I’m going to miss you bro forever. RIP.”