Rashard Anderson, Former NFL First-Round Pick & Carolina Panthers Defensive Back, Dead at 45

by Patrick Norton

Rashard Anderson – former first-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2000 – passed away yesterday at the age of 45. Announced in a statement from Jackson State’s Athletics Director Ashley Robinson, cause of death is currently unknown.

Anderson’s pro career lasted two seasons with Carolina, appearing in 27 games. The defensive back is a member of Jackson State’s Hall of Fame after a four-year career between 1996-1999. Anderson represents the school’s most recent first-round selection in an NFL Draft.

Robinson’s statement begins, “Today is a sad day for the JSU family. Rashard was one of the best players in the history of our football program and an outstanding person. He attended our spring football game in April and was excited about the program returning to championship status. Rashard will always be remembered by Jackson State University, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time”.

Rashard Anderson’s Legacy at Jackson State

Anderson played a pivotal role in the Tigers’ 1996 Southwestern Athletic Conference title in his freshman season. Graduating and entering the draft in 2000, the defensive back joined teammate Sylvester Morris as the first pair of first round selections taken from the school since Walter Payton and Robert Brazile in 1975.

Morris – selected 21st overall by the Kansas City Chiefs – played just one season in the NFL, starting 14 games. While a member of Kansas City’s organization until 2003, Morris only appeared in the one year. An injury ended the wide receiver’s brief second wind with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 before the start of the season.

While neither player benefitted from a long career the league, both men remained very close thanks to the bond created in Mississippi. Anderson’s passing offers an opportunity to reflect on localized tragedy, and the fragility of life and personal relationships.