North Carolina

Former UNC lineman who received attention for homeless plight dies in Florida

Ryan Hoffman tears up while talking about his daughter at Harry's, a restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., Jan. 7, 2015. Hoffman, once a 287-pound starting left tackle for a top-ten ranked University of North Carolina football team, renowned for his toughness and durability, is now plagued with short-term memory problems and lives on the street, sometimes begging money from passing cars.
Ryan Hoffman tears up while talking about his daughter at Harry's, a restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., Jan. 7, 2015. Hoffman, once a 287-pound starting left tackle for a top-ten ranked University of North Carolina football team, renowned for his toughness and durability, is now plagued with short-term memory problems and lives on the street, sometimes begging money from passing cars. Raleigh

Ryan Hoffman, the former North Carolina football player who received national media attention this year while living homeless in Florida, has died, according to news reports.

Hoffman, 41, was killed Monday when his bicycle was hit by a vehicle in Haines City, Fla., the Ledger in Haines City, Fla., reported. The newspaper said the Haines City Police Department confirmed Hoffman was hit on a poorly lit stretch of highway.

The Daily Ridge of Lake Wales, Fla., reported Hoffman was the former UNC player and that he was dead at the scene when emergency responders arrived.

Hoffman’s story of living as a homeless person in Lakeland, Fla., panhandling on street corners, was reported in March by The New York Times and The News & Observer. Hoffman, who suffered from mental illness, said he had sold drugs and was addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol.

UNC assisted in bringing Hoffman to Chapel Hill, where he said he received evaluation and treatment to diagnose the reasons for the mental health problems, which may have been caused or compounded by playing football. Former teammates reached out to support the former offensive lineman, who played for the Tar Heels in the late-1990s.

Hoffman said he then returned to Florida and said he was placed in a recovery center near Palm Beach, Fla.

In an interview with The News & Observer in September, Hoffman said he had been living with his sister in Palm Coast, Fla., and attempting to find a fulltime job.

“I’m trying to get back on my feet,” he said. “I want to be productive. I want to get things turned around.”

Hoffman’s story of living on the streets was reported in March by The New York Times. His sister, Kira Soto, had begun a fund to help pay for his medical treatment.

According to The Times’ account, Hoffman was homeless for more than eight months, begging for money on street corners.

Hoffman blamed football, in large part, for his problems. The head trauma and other brain injuries from playing the sport, he told The Times, had left him unable to function normally, although he also believed he could have a genetic mental illness.

In March, a photograph of Hoffman posing in front of the Old Well on the UNC campus with former teammate Beau Parry was shared on social media.

At the time UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham declined to confirm that Hoffman was on campus.

But he said the university was “trying to provide appropriate resources for Ryan and his family.”

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