Sheriff's deputies say alcohol may have been involved in an accident that killed a 32-year-old bicyclist Saturday morning.
By JOSH ZIMMER
Published September 5, 2004
TAMPA - Tampa Bay Storm player Darion Conner is being investigated by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in a Saturday morning car accident that killed a bicyclist.
Deputies found the 37-year-old offensive and defensive lineman at the accident scene near Linebaugh Avenue and Mullis City Way, Sheriff's Office Spokesman Lt. Rod Reder said.
He was still in his 1994 sport utility vehicle and had apparently crossed the median, he said.
No charges have been filed, but the Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash as a possible alcohol-related fatality, Reder said. Investigators took a blood sample for a toxicology test. Reder said it could be weeks before the results are ready.
"There was a strong odor of alcohol and he was basically passed out at the wheel when we got there," he said.
Conner, who lives at 9228 Lakechase Island Way, already has one DUI arrest on his record dating back to 2002. He also was charged at the time with driving with an invalid driver's license. State records do not indicate the outcome of the case.
Saturday's accident occurred about 1:50 a.m., and killed 32-year-old Jonathan Michael Conklin, who lived in Carrollwood at 10304 Parkcrest Drive. According to deputies, Conklin was riding his bicycle west on Linebaugh when he was struck from behind, the impact throwing him about 200 feet.
Deputies said they think Conner's 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser swerved and hit Conklin. Conner was found in an eastbound turn lane on Linebaugh.
The 260-pound Conner is a former National Football League starter who joined the Storm five years ago. Head coach Tim Marcum called him a "heck of a guy, a hard worker, a great athlete."
He said he didn't know about the accident, and planned to call Conner. Conner has a wife and kids in Atlanta, he said.
"You've got me at a total loss for words," said Marcum, who coached Conner through a championship season in 2003. "Let the facts play out and let the facts speak for the situation."
Conner is the highest NFL draft pick in Storm history, according to his profile on the Storm Web site. He is tied for 11th on the team's all-time sack list with eight. But at one time he terrorized opposing NFL quarterbacks.
The former linebacker's career spanned from 1990-1997, including a breakout year in 1994 when he tallied 10.5 sacks with the New Orleans Saints. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles, who named Conner its special teams most valuable player in 1997. He also was one of the first players signed by the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999.
In his 114-game NFL career, he recorded 33.5 sacks.
"He's a doggone good football player; had a good year last year," Marcum said. "All I know, I like him. He's part of our family. I hope for the best for he and his family."
Times staff writer Jay Cridlin and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.