CHICAGO (April 5, 2007) -- Former New England Patriots' receiver Darryl Stingley, who was paralyzed after a hard hit during an NFL exhibition game nearly 30 years ago, has died. He was 55.
Stingley was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital early Thursday after he was found unresponsive in his Chicago home, according to Tony Brucci an investigator with the Cook County medical examiner's office.
An autopsy was scheduled. The cause of death was not immediately available.
Stingley played football until August 12, 1978, when the 26-year-old receiver went up for a pass during an exhibition game and was hit from behind by Oakland Raiders' safety Jack Tatum. The hit broke Stingley's neck and left him a quadriplegic.
Stingley was born and raised in Chicago. He was a star running back at John Marshall High School. He attended Purdue on a football scholarship.
In 1973, he was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots, owned by Robert Kraft.
"On behalf of the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization, we're deeply saddened by news of Darryl Stingley's death, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Stingley family at this time," said team spokesman Stacey James.
Stingley, who used a wheelchair, became a symbol for violence in the game. He wrote a book about his experiences entitled Happy to Be Alive. It was published in 1983.
He served as executive director of player personnel for the Patriots and often visited paralyzed patients.
In a 1988 Associated Press interview, he talked about the day that changed his life.
"I have relived that moment over and over again," Stingley said. "I was 26 years old at the time and I remember thinking, 'What's going to happen to me? If I live, what am I going to be like?' And then there were all those whys, whys, whys?
"It was only after I stopped asking why, that I was able to regroup and go on my with my life," he said.
Stingley regained limited movement in his right arm and operated his electric wheelchair on his own.
In 1993, Stingley started a nonprofit foundation in Chicago designed to help inner-city youth.