Tregg Duerson, who followed in his father's footsteps at Notre Dame, wondered in an interview with the New York Times last week why his father couldn't have played baseball instead.
In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in 2007, Duerson testified on behalf of the NFLPA's player benefits board. Another player, former Viking Brent Boyd, had testified that he believed his depression and cognitive impairment were caused by playing football.
Alzheimer's, my father's 84, and as I had mentioned earlier, Senator, spent 30 years at General Motors," Duerson testified. "He also has — he also has Alzheimer's and brain damage but never played a professional sport. So the challenge, you know, in terms of where the damage comes from, is a fair question."
Did Duerson take his life because of what was happening to his brain?
"I don't want to say that was the reason," Alicia Duerson said. "I don't want to give a reason because I don't know. I only know what he told me — 'Get my brain to the NFL. I think there is something wrong with the left side of my brain.'"
Thursday, 2:30 p.m.: Ben-David gets a call from Antoinette Sykes. She has not heard from her fiance and is concerned. Could he check on Duerson? Ben-David goes to Duerson's unit and knocks on the door. Nothing. "Dave! Dave! You there?" He smells something. Smoke. Must be one of Duerson's cigars.
Mary Ellen Hays, the 79-year-old mother of Duerson's best friend from high school in Muncie, Ind., said the 2003 death of Duerson's mother, Julia Mae Leavell Duerson, changed him.
During his interview with Trucks, Duerson said he lost his best friend when his mother died — one day before Thanksgiving, two days before Duerson's birthday.
His father, Arthur Duerson, died two years ago, on Nov.18, 2009.
Dave Duerson's three siblings told him they were burying their father on Nov. 28, 2009 — Duerson's 49th birthday.
"OK, I consider myself strong and all of that," Duerson told Trucks. "I'd lived the so-called celebrity life, and they considered me the golden child of my family. But, you know, I think they missed the part where I'm a human. And so that was profound. The flip of that is that I played into the plan God had. Every birthday and Thanksgiving, I will also remember saying goodbye to my parents."
Thursday, 2:40 p.m.: Ben-David calls Sykes. He sends two security guards to check Duerson's parking spot. They radio back from the indoor lot saying Duerson's black SUV is there. Sykes sends Ben-David an e-mail granting permission to use an emergency key to enter Duerson's condo.
Duerson was a captain and team MVP at Notre Dame, an All-American and a four-time Pro Bowl player.
He was a man of big ambitions and big dreams, a proud man.
At one point, he thought he could be mayor of Chicago. Friends say he had conversations with departing Mayor Richard Daley about the possibility, and he told them Daley was willing to help. At another point, he thought he would succeed the late Gene Upshaw as executive director of the NFLPA.
He found success quickly after his playing days, at one point owning three McDonald's franchises before growing the annual sales of Fair Oaks, his sausage company, from $24 million to $63.5 million.
One day, he realized he could not live up to his self-expectations. Duerson used to think of himself as a perfectionist. That changed when he saw comedian Jim Carrey on "The Tonight Show" talking about being a perfectionist as a comedian and actor.
"And Jim Carrey says, 'Perfection is God's business. I just try for excellence,'" Duerson told Trucks. "And I have to tell you, I dropped in front of the TV, man. I dropped to my knees in front of the TV and said, 'Look, I'm sorry. Forgive me for my arrogance.'"
Thursday, 2:50 p.m.: Ben-David and the two guards go back to the condo and try to open the door. Something is in the way; the door won't open. At 2:51 p.m., Ben-David calls 911.
Who knows how Duerson's life would have been different if he had been able to collect what was owed to him?