LOS ANGELES – Several Southern California players who were close to Mario Danelo are convinced the Trojans kicker's death was an accident, not suicide.
"I know Mario, he was someone who always cherished life," offensive lineman Matt Spanos said Monday after a somber team meeting — the first since Danelo died over the weekend.
"Obviously an accident," guard Drew Radovich said. "I was fortunate to live with him for 2 1/2 years. There was never a sign of him being depressed. He was always loving life. There's no way he could have committed suicide — no way."
Danelo's body was found Saturday about 120 feet down a rocky cliff in San Pedro, not far from the family home, police said. Foul play has been ruled out.
"There's no crime," Los Angeles Police Dept. officer Mike Lopez said Sunday. "It was either an accident or a suicide."
An autopsy was performed on Danelo on Monday, and the coroner's office said it could be six to eight weeks before the cause of death is determined.
The medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results that would detect the presence of any alcohol or drugs in the system of the 21-year-old player, son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo.
Spanos, Radovich, linebacker Dallas Sartz, long snapper Will Collins and holder Michael McDonald met with reporters, along with special teams graduate assistant Sam Anno.
Anno said Danelo's brothers, Joey and Tony, read a letter to the team from their parents.
"All they could talk about was how fortunate they were to be a part of the Trojan family," said Anno, struggling to maintain his emotions. "It's a tragic loss, it's very sad. The family's having a hard time."
Danelo made 15 of 16 field goals this season and led the Trojans in scoring with 89 points. He made two field goals in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day to help USC beat Michigan 32-18.
The 21-year-old junior missed two field goals in his two-year career at USC, going 26-for-28, and he was 127-of-134 on extra points. He set NCAA single-season records with 83 extra points and 86 attempts in the 2005 season.
"We'll miss Mario terribly," USC coach Pete Carroll said through a school spokesman. "He was a wonderful kid and well liked by everyone. We'll be there to help his family in every way we can, and we'll always be there for them."
Danelo was a walk-on at USC in 2003 and received a scholarship two years later.
Funeral services will be held Friday at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in San Pedro.