JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot and critically wounded outside an apartment building early Tuesday as he and a former Jacksonville teammate waited for two women they had met at a nightclub, police said.
Collier, 26, and former Jaguars defensive end Kenneth Pettway were waiting in a Cadillac Escalade when a gunman fired into the vehicle, said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson. Collier was shot several times, but it wasn't clear where he was hit.
Collier was in critical condition at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said early Tuesday. Later, spokesman Chris Turner said the hospital was no longer giving updates on Collier's condition. There are a variety of reasons that can happen, such as a request by relatives.
Wayne Weaver, owner of the Jaguars, said in a statement released by the team: "We're shocked and deeply saddened by this morning's news about Richard Collier. We have been informed that Richard has had surgery and he's in critical but stable condition. The entire Jaguars family is praying for Richard and his family at this time."
The motive behind the attack was unknown, and the sheriff's office was investigating. Pettway, who was released in final cuts Saturday, was not injured.
The shooting happened around 2:45 a.m. in a middle- to upper middle-class neighborhood just west of downtown Jacksonville and blocks from the St. Johns River. The players had gone to the apartment complex so the women could drop off their car, authorities said.
The women, who appeared to be in their 20s, were wearing nightclub dresses when they were escorted by police back to the complex midmorning Tuesday, but they declined comment. Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards declined comment at the hospital. The team planned to release a statement later in the day.
Collier is the third NFL player to be shot in the past 18 months. Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was fatally shot during what police said was a botched burglary attempt at his Miami-area home in November. Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed when his rented limousine was sprayed with bullets minutes after leaving a New Year's party at a downtown Denver club in 2007.
Entering his third year after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent, Collier competed for the starting job at left tackle but was beaten out by Khalif Barnes in the preseason.
Still, the Jaguars believe Collier could be a future starter. They signed him to a contract extension earlier this year despite an arrest last season.
The 6-foot-7, 345-pound linemen was arrested Nov. 3 after officers found him asleep behind the wheel at a McDonald's drive-thru window. Collier failed field sobriety tests and had a blood-alcohol level of .096, according to police. In Florida, it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher.
Collier was suspended two games and fined by coach Jack Del Rio.
Collier's attorney disputed the police report and recommended that his client go to trial, but Collier didn't want the team to have to deal with the negative attention it would have generated. So he pleaded no contest and accepted six months of probation.
He publicly vowed to stay out of trouble, not wanting to blow his chance of becoming an every-down starter in the NFL.
Coming out of high school in Shreveport, La., Collier didn't have the grades or test scores to attend most colleges, so he stayed home with his mother and got a job in the produce department at Wal-Mart.
He worked there for two years before deciding to give football another chance. He enrolled at Tyler Junior College in Texas, about 90 miles west of Shreveport. He showed up weighing 390 pounds, having not lifted a weight since high school.
Collier quickly got his grades — and body — in shape and worked his way into the starting lineup. He transferred to Valdosta State in 2004 and helped the Blazers win the Division II national championship that season. He earned All-America honors as a senior in 2005.
But he failed to impress many NFL scouts.
The Jaguars were the only team to bring Collier in for a workout before the draft, so signing with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie was an easy decision. His only other choice, he thought, was to go back to the produce section.
"It took me to lose everything to recognize how much I had," Collier said during his rookie season. "It was a blessing, really. I found out how it would be if I didn't work hard and apply myself."