NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Rob Bironas, who worked his way through odd jobs and the Arena Football League before becoming one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers, died in a car crash. He was 36.
The former Tennessee Titans player died Saturday night when he lost control on a curve in his 2009 GMC Yukon Denali and crashed after 11 p.m. less than a mile from home, Metro Nashville Police said.
In a statement on the department website, police said his SUV was speeding when it went off the road and hit a line of trees before coming to a stop upside down in a culvert.
Bironas was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Police said there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs at the scene.
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The Titans released Bironas in March after nine seasons. The Tennessean reported that Bironas worked out for the Detroit Lions and for Tampa Bay during the offseason.
Bironas married Rachel Bradshaw, daughter of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, in June. Police spokesman Don Aaron said a police chaplain was with her after the crash. Bradshaw did not appear on the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show and was going to Nashville to be with his daughter.
A post on his verified Twitter account, (at)RobBironas, stated Sunday morning: “It’s w/ heavy hearts that we confirm the passing RB (hash) 2 We appreciate your respect for the family’s privacy and your prayers at this time.”
The Titans extended their condolences while it prepared to play a game at Cincinnati.
“Rob made a significant impact as a player in his nine years with the team and more importantly touched many lives in the Nashville community off the field,” the team said in a statement.
Playing a few hours after they received the sad news, the Titans lost to the Bengals 33-7 on Sunday, falling to 1-2 with their worst performance of the season.
“It was real tough, with him being on the team all those years,” running back Shonn Greene said. “We had some of our motivation and energy to play for him. It didn’t work out.”
Quarterback Jake Locker had a particularly rough time, going 17 of 34 for 185 yards with two sacks and two interceptions, one of them thrown into a crowd in the end zone.
“It’s one of those things that give you perspective,” Locker said. “It reminds you to be thankful for the people in your life. Rob was a charismatic guy that always brought smiles to people’s faces around the building. It’s tough to see it happen to someone so young, who was just recently married. You feel for him and his loved ones that are left behind.”
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean noted that Bironas was a favorite of the fans.
“I got to know Rob through the many community events he supported in our city,” Dean said in a statement. “He was down to earth, and it was clear he loved Nashville. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family.”
Reaction poured out on Twitter, with former teammates, friends and fans remembering the kicker.
“Shocked and saddened this morning at the passing of Rob Bironas,” country singer Carrie Underwood wrote. “Such a nice guy. Sending prayers and love to his family… RB (hash) 2”
Titans cornerback Jason McCourty wrote on the Twitter account he shares with brother Devin of the New England Patriots: “Rest in peace to my former teammate Rob Bironas.”
Bironas was the fourth most-accurate kicker in NFL history, connecting on 85.7 percent of his kicks (239 of 279). Only David Akers made more field goals (247) between 2005 and 2013 than Bironas. For kickers with 100 or more field goals since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Bironas ranked third making 75.2 percent of his kicks from 40 yards or longer (94 of 125).
He finished as the Titans’ second leading career scorer with 1,032 points, and he set a franchise record scoring triple digits in seven straight seasons. He also set an NFL record in 2011 in hitting a field goal from at least 40 yards in 10 consecutive games.
Bironas made a franchise-record 11 winning field goals during his career, including a 60-yarder against the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 that remains the longest field goal in Oilers or Titans history. Bironas kicked an NFL single-game record eight field goals in a 2007 victory over the Houston Texans, including a 29-yard game-winner as time expired. That helped him make his only Pro Bowl, the same year he was an Associated Press All-Pro.
He went to Auburn and transferred to Georgia Southern, where he won a Division I-AA national title. Bironas went to work for his father’s company in Louisville, Kentucky, and was cut by Green Bay in 2002. He played in the Arena Football League and even the AF2 while spending time in training camps with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh working as a part-time security guard and other jobs while trying to stick with an NFL team.
He won a roster spot with the Titans in 2005.
“To play in the NFL,” he said in 2006, “was the ultimate goal.”