Two former NFL players in their 20s have died this month. Mark Sanchez was a close friend of both, and he’s grieving as he goes to work each day as a backup quarterback for the Cowboys.
Joe McKnight was a teammate of Sanchez’s both at USC and on the Jets. After McKnight was shot and killed in New Orleans on December 1, Sanchez served as one of McKnight’s pallbearers. When Sanchez got home from McKnight’s funeral, he learned that Konrad Reuland — a childhood friend of Sanchez’s, a teammate from elementary school through high school and then a teammate again on the Jets — had died of a brain aneurysm.
“You’ve lost everything when you lose [someone] that is so important,” Sanchez told ESPN. “But I’ve got to get up and go eat breakfast, I’m going to work out, I’m going to study film and go to practice and things move on. The world moves on, and it’s like you don’t even have enough time to piece it together. It’s really weird. And you just know that family is grieving. You just pray for them and offer your support, but there’s nothing to make anybody feel better.”
Sanchez shared fond memories of both friends and teammates. Sanchez said he and Reuland were basketball teammates first, and in high school Sanchez convinced Reuland to give football a try, a decision Reuland was hesitant to make initially but which ended up with Reuland getting a scholarship to Stanford and then playing in the NFL. At USC, Sanchez knew the Louisiana native McKnight didn’t have nearby family, so he’d bring McKnight over to his family home not far from campus.
Losing a close friend is tough for anyone, at any age. For the 30-year-old Sanchez to lose two close friends in rapid succession is hard to imagine.