Dave Duerson, the former star Chicago Bears safety who killed himself on Thursday at his home in Sunny Isles Beach, was hemorrhaging millions in his final years, according to bankruptcy documents he filed last September.
And in December, his ex-wife claimed in a lawsuit that he had concealed assets. Among them: two Super Bowl championship rings and the trophy he received for winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, given for charity work, in 1987.
"That's so tragic, it's ridiculous," Mike Ditka, who coached Duerson's championship Bears in 1985, told Riptide this morning. "That's something you can't understand. First of all, if they were married-- that's your mate, why would you do that to somebody you loved? And secondly, it's just tragic to hear that he ended up that way."
Duerson played in four Pro Bowls and also won a championship with the New York Giants in 1990. A Notre Dame graduate with an economics degree, he was known for his business acumen. He owned a food company for years and served on the NFL's disability-pension board. In 2009, according to state corporation records, he co-founded Best4Broward, a charter school company.
But Duerson, who divorced wife Alicia in 2007, saw his life fall apart in the last few years. According to the bankruptcy filings, Duerson claimed a financial loss of $1.85 million in 2008. His income dried up to nothing: In 2009, he claimed, his income was -$5,106. Last year, he made $16,800.
His debt was staggering. Duerson owed more than $47,000 to the IRS for Wisconsin back taxes from 2001. And he owed $70,000 to his ex-wife for their divorce settlement. He owed $9 million for a business loan. In total, he claimed outstanding debt of almost $14.75 million.
He claimed $34.64 million in assets. All but $40,000 of that, however, was an account receivable from a 2004 Wisconsin lawsuit related to his defunct company, Duerson Foods.
Two months ago, Alicia claimed in court that Duerson had "concealed" the following assets when he filed bankruptcy:
a. Two Super Bowl championship rings acquired during his previous career
as a professional football player.
b. A large bronze trophy awarded for being named the Walter Payton Man of
the Year in 1987.
c. A Rolex Submariner timepiece.
d. Various items of jewelry.
e. Substantial amounts of office furniture, including, but not limited to, a Chippendale desk.
In a court-filed response, Duerson said that if there were any omissions in his bankruptcy filings, they were "not intentional".
Duerson, who shot himself in the chest, texted family members before hand to request that his brain be examined for trauma related to his playing days, according to reports. He believed he might have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the concussion-related disease which has been blamed for depression and suicide in football players.
Ditka says he last saw Duerson at a November reunion for the 1985 championship team in Chicago. "I talked to him and he seemed fine then," says Ditka. "I really don't know what happened. From what I've heard, I'm sure he suffered from depression from all those hits he took on the field."
"He was a hell of a leader, and a hell of a football player," adds Ditka, who publicly battled Duerson over disability-pension issues in the past. "He was a very proud man. I'm sure his financial issues were a devastating blow to his ego."
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We've embedded the wife's suit concerning the Super Bowl rings below, as well as what's probably the saddest document from his bankruptcy filing: A hand-written list of all the furniture he owned.