Suicide ruled in death of former Cobb football star
by Carlton D White
September 25, 2013 11:55 PM | 10230 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paul Oliver (27) played five years with the San Diego Chargers.<br>The Associated Press
Paul Oliver (27) played five years with the San Diego Chargers.
The Associated Press
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Paul Oliver, a former Harrison High School football star who went on to play at the University of Georgia and then in the NFL, was found dead in his east Cobb home Tuesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Cobb County Police said.

He was 29.

According to a police report, Oliver was found at the base of a stairwell in his Fairport Way home. A handgun was found at the scene.

Survivors include Oliver’s wife, Chelsea, and their two young children, who, according to the report, were at the house at the time of Oliver’s death.

“We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers,” the family said in a statement to the U-T San Diego newspaper, the city in which Oliver spent five seasons as a member of the NFL’s Chargers from 2007-11. “We request privacy in the wake of this tragic loss.”

Oliver’s death came nearly three years to the day after former South Cobb star Kenny McKinley — a high school rival of Oliver’s — died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his Centennial, Colo., home. A December 2010 police report stated that McKinley, a member of the Denver Broncos at the time, battled depression over mounting debts and injuries that had hindered his playing career.

A Kennesaw native, Oliver was a member of three region championship teams at Harrison from 2000-02, including the 2000 team that played in the Class AAAAA state championship game. As a senior, he was a Parade All-American and the top-ranked defensive back in the nation, according to Rivals and ESPN.

“He was probably one of the best players who ever played for me,” said former Harrison football coach Bruce Cobleigh. “He started every game since he first walked onto the field. He played for me from 1999 to 2002. In fact, his whole family played here.

“His death is a great loss. He was a big part of Harrison. His family was a big part of Harrison. I just don’t know what to say about it.”

After his high school career, Oliver signed with Georgia and went on to play three seasons with the Bulldogs from 2004-06 after redshirting the ’03 season. He was ruled academically ineligible for the ’07 season.

Oliver totaled 94 tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks and five forced fumbles in his Georgia career, appearing in 38 games with 15 starts. One of his highlights as a Bulldog came in 2006, when he held Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson — now one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers — to just two catches and made a game-clinching interception.

“It’s heartbreaking for me personally, for our staff, for the Bulldog Nation I’m sure, and obviously for his family,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a release from the university. “I was crushed (Wednesday) morning when I heard it. I really haven’t been able to keep it off my mind to be honest with you.

“We’ve got to find a way to reach out and help in any way we can. I hope there’s some way that the Bulldog Nation can rally around that family. I hope everybody would be encouraged to do so.”

Unable to play his senior year at Georgia, Oliver entered the 2007 NFL supplemental draft and was a fourth-round draft pick of San Diego. He spent five seasons with the Chargers, appearing in 57 games.

In 2010, Oliver started eight games at safety, recording 62 tackles. He spent time in training camp with the New Orleans Saints in 2011, but he was released by the Saints and later re-signed by San Diego.

In all, Oliver started 12 games as a professional, finishing with 144 tackles, a sack, four interceptions and one fumble return for a touchdown.

“Everyone in the Chargers family is sad today after hearing the news about Paul,” the Chargers said in team statement Wednesday. “He was part of our family for five years. At just 29 years old, he still had a lifetime in front of him. Right now all of our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this most difficult time.”

Oliver’s death had a particular effect on Chargers safety Eric Weddle, a teammate of Oliver’s from 2007-11.

“(He was just) charismatic — funny but also quiet and reserved,” Weddle told the San Diego newspaper Wednesday. “He wouldn’t really speak up much, but just a guy you could always count on, on and off the field.

“He never said a bad word about anyone. Just a good genuine guy.”

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