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Daniel Huffman, 25, who gave up football to aid ailing grandmother, is found with a gunshot wound to head.
ROSSVILLE, Ill. - Daniel Huffman gave up football eight years ago when he donated a kidney to his grandmother so she could live. Now his grandmother has lost her hero.
The 25-year-old, a former Florida State employee, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head Monday at his home in central Illinois. Authorities said there was no sign of foul play.
"He was always so happy, so fun," Huffman's grandmother, Shirlee Allison, told the Chicago Tribune for today's editions. "He put a lot of joy into everyone's life. He was always doing things for you, making you feel so special."
Huffman, a defensive tackle on Rossville's high school football team, decided to put away his football gear in 1996 for his grandmother, whose diabetes left her seriously ill and in need of a kidney transplant.
His grandmother could have waited for a transplant, but Huffman, then 17, did some research and pressed doctors to allow him to be her donor.
He loved football, but the sacrifice meant he could no longer play contact sports. Huffman had the surgery before his senior year, and word spread about the boy from Rossville, a small town about 130 miles southwest of Chicago.
Florida State gave Huffman a scholarship though he couldn't play football and he later spent three years as an FSU athletic trainer, then worked in the sports information office.
Sports Illustrated did a story on him and he was honored with a Disney Wide World of Sports Spirit Award. A television movie was made about his donation: Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story, which starred Elden Henson as Daniel and Debbie Reynolds as his grandmother.
But Huffman didn't think of his donation as an act of heroism. "If you love someone and you can help them, any way you can, you're going to do it," he told the Associated Press in 1999.
Huffman moved back to Illinois in 2000 after his grandfather died to help care for his grandmother.
He worked in various security jobs, and every weekend he would visit Allison, take her shopping and do her laundry. Friends say he recently talked of completing his college degree and dreamed of someday teaching college English.
His best friend, Shaun York, discovered Huffman's body in the garage.
"There is no answer," he said. "No one knows why."
[Last modified December 12, 2004, 00:32:19]