Former Titans Coach Jeff Fisher would probably say his saddest day as an NFL coach was the 4th of July three years ago.
It was the day he learned former Titans star quarterback Steve McNair was found shot to death in a Nashville condo by a young woman in what police determined was a murder-suicide.
It shocked this town like nothing else. I remember where I was as I saw the news splashed on a television I was watching while grabbing a sandwich for lunch.
In McNair's case, death was unexpected and sudden. Unexplainable, really.
Second year Coach Mike Munchak faced his first brush with death Monday when he learned that Titans reserve wide receiver O.J. Murdock died of a self-inflicted shot to his head after he was rushed to a Tampa hospital. Police found Murdock in his car, which was parked in front of the Tampa high school where he became a football and track star.
“It's the phone call you never want to get,'' Munchak told the media.
No one seems to know why Murdock decided to take his life.
A youth football teammate of Murdock's told the Tampa Tribune: “Nobody saw it coming.''
Murdock left text messages for several former coaches. He thanked them for what they had done for him. He left Tampa Tribune writer Bill Ward a text at 6:03 that morning, thanking him for covering his prep career.
Police found Murdock at 8:30. It was 10:43 when he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Friends, teammates and family alike often referred to a happy, upbeat, always smiling O.J. Murdock.
“But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad''
Those are some lyrics from Smokey Robinson's classic, Tears of a Clown.
It could have been a relationship gone awry. It could have been financial problems. When you examine his high school success and his less than spectacular college and pro career, it could have been his failure to live up to expectations.
He was the 10th ranked wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com as a senior in high school. He won the state 100 and 200-meter sprints in track.
Murdock chose South Carolina over Florida, but was dismissed from the team after being charged with grand theft his freshman year. He landed at a Mississippi junior college for a year before going to Fort Hays State, a Division II school — not exactly an NFL pipeline. He stayed there two years, the longest he had lasted anywhere.
The Titans took a small gamble on him, signing him as an undrafted free agent last year. In one of his first drills, O.J. Murdock tore his Achilles tendon. It kept him off the field all season. He was placed on injured reserve, a non-factor in the Titans plan.
It could be Murdock saw the number of wide receivers in camp, with two former first round picks among them. It could be he saw the writing on the wall – that he was not going to make the 53-man roster on this, or perhaps any other, NFL team.
He wouldn't be able to buy his mother a house and take care of her as she took care of him growing up.
We will never know what possessed the 25-year-old Murdock to pull that trigger.
Unlike McNair's death that shocked Titans Nation, O.J. Murdock left fans shaking their heads. Many of them didn't know who he was. He had never played a down in a game for the Titans.
Tight end Jared Cook knew Murdock at South Carolina and during the time with the Titans. He was stunned and searching for answers. So was Damian Williams, who along with Cook had roomed with Murdock.
O.J. Murdock. Few got to know him. They never will.
“Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
when there's no one around.''
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.