Tragedy continues to shadow 1994 Chargers

Defensive lineman Shawn Lee (98) of the San Diego Chargers looks toward the camera in this Nov. 1995 picture taken during the Chargers 30-27 defeat by the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Getty Images

Defensive lineman Shawn Lee (98) of the San Diego Chargers is a Nov. 1995 file photo.
Getty Images

The 1994 Chargers won the AFC title, bringing San Diego its only Super Bowl appearance.

But ever since, the roster has produced an eerie stretch of tragic losses.

On Saturday, Shawn Lee, a star defender on those '94 AFC champs, died in Raleigh, N.C. of cardiac arrest. Lee became the sixth member of the team to pass away at an early age.

"Not again," former Chargers running back Natrone Means told the San Diego Union-Tribune after hearing about Lee's death. "It's crazy, just crazy, that we've had so many guys who have fallen. I can't make any sense of it. I've given up trying. You just hope you quit getting these random messages out of nowhere that another teammate has passed away."

The odds are already stacked against NFL players - life-expectancy rates are 53 to 59, depending on position, according to one study. But the '94 Chargers have suffered through an unusual string of young casualties - with each player dying under a variety of circumstances.

Five months after the team lost to the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX, 28-year-old linebacker David Griggs died in a car crash in Florida. In 1996 running back Rodney Culver, 26, died when a ValuJet flight from Miami to Atlanta crashed into the Florida Everglades. Two years later, linebacker Doug Miller was struck by lightning - twice - in Colorado, killing him at age 28. In 2008, Curtis Whitley, 39, overdosed and defensive lineman Chris Mims, 38, died of a heart attack.

And now Shawn Lee, one half of the "Two Tons of Fun" tandem with Rueben Davis, is gone. Lee had been struggling with diabetes for years, according to the Union-Tribune.

"Look at Shawn. He was a big man, a man's man, no doubt about it. I can't believe he's gone, too," Means told the newspaper. "The average fan would take a look at him and be scared to go up and talk to him, but he was great to people... He'd do anything in the world for you."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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