Athletes We Lost In 2022

The year of 2022 was a particularly noteworthy one in the wide world of sports. From the Colorado Avalanche winning their first Stanley Cup in over two decades, to Kalle Rovanpera becoming the youngest champion in World Rally Car history at the age of 22, the sporting world featured some extravagant highs throughout 2022 (via 9News and Reuters). Unfortunately, there were also some devastating lows, as the sporting world lost a number of current and former professional athletes. Some of the most famous professional athletes died in 2022, including several Hall of Famers. 

Some of the most tragic sports deaths belonged to Dwayne Haskins, Sara Lee, and Jaylon Ferguson, who were all still active professionally at the time of their passing. Longtime retired legends like Ray Guy, Bruce Sutter, and Bill Russell also died, taking with them the last remaining memories from bygone eras. While this is certainly not a complete list, these are the athletes we lost in 2022.

Dwayne Haskins: April 9

On April 9, 2022, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins died after getting hit by a dump truck in the early hours of the morning. According to The New York Times, Haskins was on his feet walking on the westbound side of Interstate 595 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when he was hit. While it was unclear at the time why Haskins would be walking around on the highway –- instead of driving -– it was later revealed that his car had run out of gas and he was likely trying to make his way to the nearest gas station (via the Associated Press).

He had initially called his wife when he ran out of gas, but when he did not call her back or answer his phone she became worried and called 911. Though it was not known at the time, Haskins was intoxicated on both alcohol and illegal drugs when he was hit (per the Associated Press). Haskins was just 24 when he died, having been a prior first round draft pick by Washington in 2019.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Ray Guy: November 3

One of the NFL's all-time legends, Ray Guy, died on November 3, 2022. As The New York Times reported, Guy passed away from advanced-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease near his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at the age of 72. Guy was the first punter ever to make it into the Professional Football Hall of Fame and has long been considered one of the best to ever play the sport.

Some of his career accolades include three All-Pro selections (awarded to the best player at his position each year), leading the league in gross punt average three times, and being the first punter drafted in the first round in NFL history. Guy played for 14 seasons from 1973 to 1986, all with the Oakland (later Los Angeles) Raiders, and made the Hall of Fame in 2014. He had a penchant for making excellent kicks that locked the opposing team inside their 20 yard line, and he was one of the most popular players in the league and a fan favorite.

In his personal life, Guy was married twice, first to Beverly Bentley from 1972 until the early 2000s, and second to Sandy Guy nee Lord. He also had two kids, Ryan and Amber, as well as a brother (Al) and a few grandchildren.

Junior Siavii: January 13

The world lost former NFL player Junior Siavii just weeks into the new year, on January 13, 2022. Siavii had previously played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks during his career from 2004 to 2010 (per NBC Sports). At the time of his death, Siavii was in custody at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. No cause of death was formally released.

According to the Department of Justice, two and a half years prior, in August 2019, Siavii had been arrested on multiple illegal firearms charges. The federal firearms charges stemmed from several arrests related to Siavii being a user of illegal drugs in possession of guns and ammunition –- a federal crime. According to the Justice Department, officers contacted Siavii after he was seen behind the wheel of a stolen Jeep. During the ensuing struggle, Siavii fought with multiple officers and had to be tased several times. This marked Siavii's third arrest for illegal guns and drugs, and he was found with a handgun and several controlled substances. Siavii's case was still awaiting trial at the time of his death.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Mike Fanning: October 30

For many years in the late '70s through the early '80s, Mike Fanning was one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. Originally drafted in 1975 by the Los Angeles Rams in the first round, Fanning also played for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions during his decade-long career (per the University of Tulsa). Fanning attended college at the University of Notre Dame, where he was a first team All-American in 1974. Fanning was also part of the Fighting Irish for the 1973 season when they went undefeated (via the NCAA).

He was a two-year starter at Notre Dame, where he made more than 160 tackles during his college career. As a pro, Fanning was immediately a hit as a rookie, being named to the All-Rookie team in 1975. In 1980, Fanning was a member of the Rams when they won Super Bowl XIV. Following his retirement from the NFL, Fanning worked at Tulsa University in the athletic department. He died on October 30, 2022, at the age of 69, leaving behind a son and two daughters. No immediate cause of death was released.

Bruce Sutter: October 25

On October 25, 2022, longtime pitching ace Bruce Sutter died in the company of his family in Cartersville, Georgia. According to the Associated Press (via NPR), Sutter was 69 at the time and had recently been diagnosed with cancer. At the time of his death, Sutter had been married to his wife for 50 years, and he is survived by her and his multiple kids and grandchildren.

Sutter had one of the most storied careers in baseball history, eventually earning himself a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Powered by a devastating split-fingered fastball, Sutter made six All-Star teams and won the 1979 award as the best pitcher in the league (the Cy Young Award). He also recorded the final six outs to close out the 1982 World Series to help St. Louis beat Milwaukee, throwing two "perfect innings" — meaning he didn't allow a single batter to reach base.

Sutter was one of the first closers elected to the Hall of Fame, and he ended his career with an incredible 300 saves. He played from 1976 to 1988 as a member of the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves.

Sara Lee: October 6

WWE wrestler Sara Lee died on October 6, 2022, at the age of just 30 years old, leaving behind a husband and three young children. According to the New York Post, Lee had previously won the sixth season of the reality TV show "Tough Enough," which was produced by the WWE. Following her win, Lee wrestled with WWE for a year before wrestling independently. Her husband was pro wrestler Corey James Weston, and they were married in 2017.

There was no immediate cause given for her death, and she had been active on social media in the days leading up to her passing. Bull James, another wrestler, organized a Go Fund Me page to help her surviving family members pay for her funeral. The page has since surpassed more than $100,000 in funds through over 1,000 individual donations. A few weeks following her death, her husband posted a heartbreaking tribute to his Instagram page, which many fellow wrestlers warmly commented on.

Bill Russell: July 31

In the 1950s and 1960s, few people –- if anyone -– played the game of basketball better than Bill Russell. At a time when Black Americans were not even granted their full civil rights, Russell helped lead the Boston Celtics to an unprecedented 11 NBA championships, including eight consecutive from 1959 to 1966 (per The New York Times). As a member of the Celtics, Russell was an All-Star for 12 of his 13 seasons, and he also won the league MVP five times. He is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player in history, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Before his NBA career, Russell was also a Gold Medalist at the 1956 Olympics, two-time NCAA champion, and an All-American at the University of San Francisco. In 1967, Russell took over coaching duties, winning two championships as a player-coach in 1968 and 1969. Not only was Russell an incredibly dominant player in the NBA, but he was also a civil rights and social justice activist. In recognition of his contributions to America, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Russell died on July 31, 2022, with no cause of death given. He was 88 years old. Russell was married four times during his life and had three children. He was known for being incredibly humble, and he was one of the most respected and beloved players of all time.

Marlin Briscoe: June 27

During the Summer of 2022, former Denver Broncos quarterback Marlin Briscoe died on June 27 at the age of 76. As per the Associated Press, Briscoe was the first Black quarterback to start a game in professional football history when he did so for the Denver Broncos in 1968. The Broncos were a part of the American Football League (AFL) at the time, and Briscoe was the starter for five games. Even though he played well as a rookie, Briscoe was forced to change positions to receiver due to intense racism against the idea of Black quarterbacks in the league at the time.

By some accounts, Briscoe was good enough as a quarterback to have eventually become one of the best of all time, but he was never given the chance. After leaving Denver in 1969, he would go on to win two Super Bowls as a wide receiver, including one as a part of the undefeated '72 Miami Dolphins –- the only undefeated team in NFL history. In 2016, Briscoe was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, having played for Omaha University while in school.

Briscoe was a vocal opponent of former President Donald Trump, and he was a passionate civil rights activist. In 2021, the Broncos created a diversity coaching fellowship program in Briscoe's honor. Briscoe, nicknamed "The Magician," reportedly died of pneumonia.

Tony Siragusa: June 22

On June 22, 2022, longtime Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, "the Goose," died. According to ESPN, Siragusa played in the league for 12 seasons, winning the 2001 Super Bowl as a member of the Ravens. During his career, Siragusa was one of the most popular players, both on and off the field, and was incredibly philanthropic within the communities that he played for. He was one of the best players on one of the greatest defenses of all time, the 2000 Ravens, and was known for his ability to use his large frame to eat double-teams up the middle.

Siragusa endeared himself to fans with his down-to-earth persona and comical antics. He often played practical jokes, including his famous prank on Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe on one of the earliest episodes of the NFL show "Hard Knocks." "The Goose" was 55 at the time of his death, the cause of which was not immediately given.

Though he was never elected to a Pro Bowl and did not win any MVP awards, Siragusa was still regarded as one of the top players of his era. After his playing days, Siragusa had minor roles in movies like "25th Hour," and he also had guest appearances on "The Sopranos."

Jaylon Ferguson: June 21

One of the most tragic deaths of 2022 belonged to Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. As ESPN reported, he was just 26 years old at the time and was getting ready for the upcoming 2022 season starting in September. Ferguson was nicknamed "Sack Daddy" during his time at Louisiana Tech, and he had been a member of the Ravens since being drafted by them in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. Ferguson had a prolific college football career at Louisiana Tech, including becoming the division's all-time sack leader.

Ferguson died at his home in Baltimore, Maryland, having grown up in Ruston, Louisiana. His cause of death was an accidental overdose of cocaine and fentanyl (according to ESPN). Just prior to his death, the Ferguson family had suffered through a devastating house fire, which resulted in injuries for Ferguson as he tried to rescue family valuables. Ferguson left behind three young children and a brother.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Guy LaFleur: April 22

Hall of Famer and former Montreal Canadiens superstar Guy LaFleur died on April 22, 2022, from complications due to lung cancer. As the Associated Press reported, LaFleur had previously been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019 while undergoing a separate operation on his heart. Reportedly, LaFleur was a lifelong smoker prior to his diagnosis.

LaFleur was in the NHL for 17 seasons from the early 1970s all the way to the early 1990s, playing his last few seasons while already a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame after coming back from retirement. During his legendary career, LaFleur won five Stanley Cups –- all in the 1970s -– including four consecutive seasons from 1976 to 1979. He played in more than 1,100 games, and he was one of the most prolific offensive players in NFL history, finishing with 560 goals and just over 700 assists.

Not only does he still hold several Canadiens records, he managed the incredible feat of scoring 50 goals in a season for six straight seasons from 1974 to 1979, and he was a two-time regular season MVP. He was one of the most beloved players in Canadiens history, and there were many tributes to him from former NHL stars upon his death.

Rayfield Wright: April 7

Rayfield "Big Cat" Wright died at the age of 76 on April 7, 2022, after being hospitalized with seizures. According to ESPN, Wright was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2006 after playing 13 outstanding seasons with the Dallas Cowboys as an offensive tackle. He helped protect fellow Hall of Famer, quarterback Roger Staubach, winning two Super Bowls with him in the 1970s with the Cowboys.

Wright was a staunch defender during his career, earning six Pro Bowl invitations and three All-Pro nods. His playing era coincided with some of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history, and he had to face off against future Hall of Fame talents like Deacon Jones during his career — and he more than held his own.

Unfortunately, Wright's playing days would have a lasting effect on his mental health. He dealt with seizures, headaches, and dizziness following his retirement, and he was diagnosed with dementia in 2012 -– much of which he attributed to his playing days. Originally from Georgia, Wright managed to play in more than 180 games during his career, and he was a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team (per the NFL).

Marion Barber III: July 12

Former Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber III died on July 12, 2022, after suffering from heatstroke while at his Dallas-area home. As per The Washington Post, his death was ruled an accident, and it may have been related to his intense workout routine as the thermostat was reportedly set at a scorching 91 degrees. Barber played in the NFL from 2005 to 2011, mainly for the Cowboys, but also with the Chicago Bears for his final season.

During his career, Barber scored more than 50 touchdowns and rushed for just short of 5,000 yards. His best season was in 2007, when he was elected to the Pro Bowl. Following the end of his career, Barber had multiple run-ins with law enforcement. In 2014, he was hospitalized by police over mental health concerns (per NBC). Between 2018 and 2019, Barber was arrested multiple times, eventually being sentenced to probation and community service (per NBC).

The Cowboys released a tribute to Barber on their Twitter account following his death. They called him an "old school, hard nosed football player" and expressed their condolences to his surviving family members.

Odalis Perez: March 10

On March 10, 2022, former MLB starting pitcher Odalis Perez died after falling off a ladder at his home in the Dominican Republic (via ESPN). Perez was a left-handed pitcher who threw for the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, and Washington Nationals during his career. He pitched for more than 1,300 innings as a pro, recording 73 wins.

Perez was originally signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1994 by the Braves (per Baseball Reference). He debuted for them four years later in 1998, pitching in 10 games during the regular season and one game in the playoffs against the Chicago Cubs. In 2002, the Braves traded Perez to the Dodgers. After several seasons with the Dodgers, he was again traded, this time to the Kansas City Royals in 2006.

Perez finished his career with the Nationals in 2008, making 30 starts and winning seven games while losing 12. His best season was in 2002, when he was elected to the All-Star Game and had an earned run average 27% better than league average.