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Raiders' Bender Found Dead

Leon Bender, a Washington State defensive tackle who signed with Oakland this month after being drafted by the Raiders in the second round, was found dead Saturday in the bathroom of his agent's home in this suburb north of Atlanta.

The cause of death was not immediately known. Police do not suspect foul play, said Cobb County police spokesman Robert Quigley. Bender was 22.

"He was just found in the floor of the bathroom," Quigley said."I think there may have been a medical history there."

Bender had epilepsy, a disorder of certain nerve cells in the brain, Washington State athletic spokeswoman Janay Leddy said from Pullman, Wash. It was not known whether that condition might have contributed to his death.

The body has been turned over to the county medical examiner to determine the time and cause of death.

Bender's agent, identified by Quigley as Terry Bolar, found the lineman's body when he awoke at about noon, Quigley said.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder from Santee, Calif., signed with Oakland on May 12. We was the 31st player overall picked in the NFL draft.

"We're shocked and saddened by this news. At this time our thoughts are with his family and friends," Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor said.

Bender is survived by his wife Liza and his 2-year-old daughter Imani.

"I think this is a shock and a great tragedy to all of us," Washington State coach Mike Price said."Our hearts go out to his parents, wife and daughter. I feel terrible about this."

Bender, ruled academically ineligible in 1995, went to junior college to boost his grades before returning to Washington State in 1996.

"I told my wife when I got kicked out of school that I was going to come back to school and get drafted in the first round and I was going to turn a lot of heads and I was going to get the last laugh," Bender told The Seattle Times in an interview last month.

With Bender, Washington State won the Pac-10 title and went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years.

Last season, he had 48 tackles, three sacks and broke up six passes and was an all-Pac-10 first-team selection. He started in all but one game in 1996 and 1997 with the Cougars.

Quigley declined to comment when asked what Bender appeared to have been doing before he died. He was taken by ambulance to Kennestone Hospital, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Detectives questioned Bender's agent on what they had been doing Friday night, Quigley said, but"they just told me there was nothing in the background of last night's activities that was suspicious."

"I think they were going to get up and just go work out this afternoon," he said.

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