NFL star died in ‘worst ever’ fireball before body dug up to solve death puzzles

Friends of NFL hero Justin Strzelczyk thought something was strange was going on.

The former Pittsburg Steelers player spent September 29 ringing old friends and apologising for things he had done wrong in the past.

The following day, he was dead.

After a minor traffic accident in his pick-up truck, police tried to get him to pull over.

Instead, Strzelczyk led them on a terrifying 40 mile chase, driving 100mph the wrong way down busy highways. When a police stinger burst one of his tyres, he barely slowed down, giving officers a single finger salute.

In desperation, the police got a lorry to completely block the Eastbound lane.

Driving at 90mph, Strzelczyk simply swerved past it into oncoming traffic and drove head first into a chemical tanker.

A police officer said: "It was one of the worst traffic scenes I’ve ever seen. The roadway was burning, his truck was burning, the tractor-trailer was burning."

Another officer commented: "At the time it appears — and not being a psychiatrist — from witness accounts that Justin Strzelczyk suffered some sort of emotional breakdown.

"Whether it was drug- or alcohol-induced or something psychological related to a pre-existing illness or both, I don’t know. All of a sudden, he snapped."

It was a tragic end for the 6ft 6ins, 21st star who had thrilled fans for nine years at the Steelers, helping the team to a Superbowl final in 1985 before injuries ended his career.

Despite being financially set for life, Strzelczyk had struggled after leaving the game. A heavy drinker like his dad, he became involved in a number of businesses which failed, and he was arrested in 2000 when during an argument about politics in a bar, he produced a handgun and banged it down on a table.

He was then convicted of drink-driving but in 2003 vowed never use alcohol or prescription drugs again.

The reason for his behaviour on the day of the crash remained a mystery.

But someone had noticed he wasn't the only retired NFL player to meet a strange demise.

Mike Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia and depression. Despite friends tying to help, he would go missing for weeks, became homeless and used a stun gun to put himself to sleep for ever.

Despite moving into coaching, Andre Waters struggled with mental demons and shot himself in the head.

When Terry Long was told he was being suspended from the NFL for steroid use, he produced a gun. Not surprisingly, his career was over and things went downhill from there.

He was charged with arson after burning down his failing business and had cash problems. He killed himself by drinking a gallon of anti-freeze.

Those are just three tragedies from many which affected former players and it took a Nigerian forensic pathologist, Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, to find the answers.

He discovered Mike Webster had suffered from CET – a condition caused by frequent blows to the head and concussions which leads to intellectual impairment, destitution, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts.

Facing billions of dollars in damages and changes to their sport, the NFL rubbished his claims.

That is where Justin Strzelczyk helped make a lasting impact for thousands of sports players for years to come.

His body was exhumed, his brain examined, and he too was found to be suffering from CET.

The NFL has now recognised CET as a real issue and changed its rules. Other sports have done the same. Justin Strzelczyk's death was tragic, but not in vain.

Dr Omalu's story is featured in the hit 2015 film Concussion starring Will Smith.

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