Caldwell’s girlfriend said he was “ambushed” by people who jumped out of the bushes and tried to rob him, per TMZ’s report. Caldwell was shot in the leg and chest and someone called 911. Caldwell’s mother told TMZ that he died on the way to the hospital.
The Tampa Police Department said the shooting took place near North 36th Street and East Hanna Avenue at 10:57 p.m., according to local news station WFLA-8.
Caldwell’s mother, Deborah, told TMZ that Caldwell was a good person who always smiled. “He tried to help everyone he could. He was the type of guy who would take his shirt off his back and give it to you,” she said.
Deborah said that her son’s last words were, “Tell everybody I love them,” WFLA-8 reported.
Caldwell Began His NFL Career With the San Diego Chargers
During his three seasons with the Florida Gators, Caldwell caught 141 passes for 2,088 and scored 18 touchdowns. During his final two seasons, the Gators went 20-5, and the team won an SEC championship in 2000 and an Orange Bowl in 2001.
He was drafted into the league as a 2nd round pick in 2002 by the then-San Diego Chargers. He played for the New England Patriots, Washington Redskins and spent an offseason with the St. Louis Rams over his six-year career. In his fourth season, he played with the Patriots as the team made a run to the AFC Championship, where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
Caldwell Struggled After the Patriots Lost the AFC Championship, ESPN Reported
Caldwell left the Patriots and signed a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins. A year later, he attended a training camp with the then-St. Louis Rams but never played a game with the team, ESPN reported.
Over his career, the 6-foot, 210-pound Caldwell played in 71 games, scored 11 touchdowns and caught 152 passes for 1,851 receiving yards.
After football, Caldwell returned to Tampa. Caldwell’s brother, Andre “Bubba” Caldwell, told ESPN that Caldwell’s dropped passes in the AFC Championship Game in 2007 hurt him. “The way the game kicked him to the curb like an unwanted stepchild hurt him mentally and haunted him,” he said.
Many Have Offered Their Condolences
— Anthony Beck (@AceWade1) June 7, 2020
Many former teammates of Caldwell’s, such as Benjamin Watson who played with him when he was a New England Patriot, have given their condolences:
Always kept us laughing and light hearted. Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories. Sad to hear about the passing of my teammate Reche Caldwell. May the Lord comfort his family during this time.
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) June 7, 2020
Other NFL receivers, such as former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, have also marked his passing:
R.I.P Reche Caldwell 👼🏽 pic.twitter.com/thcrVu8HC4
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) June 7, 2020
Jefferson High School, where Caldwell honed his skills before making it to the University of Florida, also tweeted a message of condolences.
Reche Caldwell may you Rest In Peace. Our deepest condolences to your family. Once a dragon, always a dragon. pic.twitter.com/eTmCuj8G8V
— Jefferson Football (@JBOYS_FOOTBALL) June 7, 2020
The Jefferson High School College Recruiting Twitter account also tweeted a message about Caldwell’s passing, saying, “Truly a sad day for Jefferson Football as we lost a JB great- Donald Reche Caldwell Jr. Our condolences go out to the Caldwell Family. — Once a Dragon ALWAYS a Dragon.”
The “Gators Football” Twitter page also released a message, sending Caldwell’s family thoughts and prayers.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of former Gator WR Reche Caldwell.
Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. pic.twitter.com/J86KUj7yEw
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) June 7, 2020