Like so many undrafted NFL unknowns, running back Zurlon Tipton was just hoping to earn a roster spot when he arrived with the Indianapolis Colts in 2014.
The former Central Michigan star from Sterling Heights, Mich., achieved that objective by playing in 16 games, mostly on special teams, the past two seasons. The man with an unusual first name was known as “Z” in the locker room, where teammates enjoyed his upbeat, engaging demeanor.
Tipton, 26, died Tuesday after a gun in his car was accidentally discharged.
According to police and multiple news reports, he pulled into a Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership in Roseville, Mich., at about 9:30 a.m. He was taking a duffel bag out of the trunk of his vehicle when one of the two guns inside reportedly went off. The shot struck him in the stomach. He was reportedly taken to the hospital in good condition — police expected him to be OK because he was speaking with people when being transported — but he later died.
The Colts tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the Tipton family during this difficult time. #RIPZurlon.”
No one else was injured. The Wayne County medical examiner’s office has scheduled an autopsy for Wednesday.
As a professional player, Tipton endured being a yo-yo, making the active roster, being sent down to the practice squad and then being re-signed. As long as he was a part of the team, he kept working hard. He made just a few plays when given a chance, but didn’t finish on the active roster after playing in 10 games last season.
His first NFL touchdown came on a 1-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck in a blowout loss at Dallas in 2014. Later in the postseason, he enjoyed his best game as he ran 11 times for 40 yards and caught a 6-yard pass in an AFC Divisional playoff win over Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium. He scored his only other pro touchdown on a run in an AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots.
Tipton finished with just 27 yards rushing on 13 carries with seven receptions for 75 yards in the regular season.
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