As friends, coaches and teammates of Dave Duerson, the ex-Bear who committed suicide last week, continue to ask questions about what led him to take his life, more details are coming to light about the financial problems that plagued Duerson in recent years.
Sean Jensen and Art Golab of the Chicago Sun-Times report that in September of 2010, Duerson filed for personal bankruptcy, listing almost $15 million in liabilities, including two multimillion-dollar bank loans, two mortgages on his home and $70,000 owed to his ex-wife on a divorce settlement.
Duerson also listed assets of almost $35 million, but nearly all of that was a judgment his company, Duerson Foods, had won — but not collected — in a lawsuit against food processing companies.
Aside from that uncollected judgment, Duerson had very little to show for his football career and his post-football business career; other than a car with 140,000 miles on it, his most valuable asset was a checking account containing $846.
Friends have said Duerson was shaken by his financial problems, as well as his divorce. Two months before his suicide, Duerson’s ex-wife sued him to try to collect his two Super Bowl rings (earned with the 1985 Bears and 1990 Giants) and his 1987 NFL Man of the Year trophy. That litigation drew a harsh response from Duerson’s coach with the Bears, Mike Ditka.
“That’s so tragic, it’s ridiculous,” Ditka said in an interview this week with Miami New Times. “That’s something you can’t understand. First of all, if they were married– that’s your mate, why would you do that to somebody you loved? And secondly, it’s just tragic to hear that he ended up that way.”
Duerson had also clashed with Ditka in the past. In 2007, as Ditka was becoming increasingly vocal about the needs of players who had retired with serious injuries, Duerson claimed that as a coach Ditka had pressured players to take the field even if they were hurt. Ditka called that “an out-and-out lie.”
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine hope to determine whether Duerson was exposed to brain damage on the field, as Duerson’s last request before shooting himself in the heart was that he wanted his brain to be studied.