Former Buccaneers Defensive End Keith McCants Found Dead

Keith McCants

Getty Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Keith McCants was found dead on Thursday.

One-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker/defensive end Keith McCants died at age 53 before Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigators found his body in his Florida home on Thursday.

“It appears it was a drug overdose, but we are awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner’s office,” sheriff’s office spokesperson Amanda Sinni said via the Associated Press. “This is still an open investigation.”

A call from McCants’ roommate regarding the former Bucs standout came into the sheriff’s office at about 5:10 a.m. according to Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times. McCants had a history of arrests for drug possession and drug paraphernalia according to the Associated Press.

He spoke about his struggles with painkillers during his NFL career in a 2015 interview with Vice Sports. The problem continued after his career, leading to multiple arrests, he explained.

McCants’ friend, Robert Blackmon, 54, a former NFL safety and current St. Petersburg mayoral candidate, worked tirelessly for a decade to help him overcome substance abuse.
“This morning, we lost that battle, Blackmon wrote in a Facebook post. “Keith meant everything to me. I would tell people he was my friend. My father. My grandfather. My brother. I would lovingly call him my 53-year-old son.”
“He needed extra help, due to all that he had endured in life,” Blackmon continued. “But I would always tell others how remarkable his demeanor was. If you truly knew Keith, one thing that would stand out to you was his patience. He rarely ever got truly upset. He would indulge others. He wanted to see happiness on the face of those around him. He knew how much sadness there was in our world. And how much he had endured himself.”

McCants’ Brief NFL Career Began With the Bucs

McCants played three seasons for the Bucs from 1990 to 1992 after the team took him at No. 4 in the 1990 NFL Draft from Alabama, where he was an All-American. In 1991, Bucs defensive coordinator Floyd Peters converted McCants from linebacker to defensive end though McCants wanted to stay at linebacker according to the Gadsden Times in 1992.

In 47 games with the Bucs, McCants tallied 192 tackles, 12 sacks, and three fumble recoveries. McCants went on to play for the Houston Oilers and Arizona Cardinals before his career ended after the 1995 season. He finished his career with 192 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and a pick-six in 88 games played.

McCants Returned to Spotlight After NFL Career

Besides the struggles with substance abuse during and after his NFL career, McCants spoke of his financial troubles in a 2021 ESPN documentary called Broke. McCants lost over $17 million according to Knight.

McCants also detailed his struggles in his book, My Dark Side of the NFL.

After his NFL career, McCants served as a marine police officer for the Alabama state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources per the Associated Press. Blackmon noted that McCants “made national headlines” for being the first Black marine police officer in the state.

McCants also did a radio broadcast with Tampa area station, WWBA, which he started doing in 2019.

In his passing, he leaves behind four children, Knight reported.

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