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Former Carolina Panthers Jeff Lewis, Bryan Stoltenberg Die Over Weekend

January 7th, 2013 at 9:16 PM
By Jesse Collin

Tragedy struck twice last weekend for the Carolina Panthers.

Within a day of each other, the team lost two of its former players – quarterback Jeff Lewis and center Bryan Stoltenberg.

Lewis, who was just 39 years old, died in Phoenix on Saturday. No cause of death has been released to the public. However, it has been reported that Lewis suffered from previous health issues.

After a standout career at Northern Arizona University, Lewis became a fourth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 1996. He appeared in just five games over two seasons in Denver, but collected a ring as part of the Broncos team that won Super Bowl XXXII.

After spending the 1998 season out of football, the Panthers traded their 1999 third-round pick and 2000 fourth-round pick to acquire Lewis from Denver.

Former head coach George Siefert was enamored with Lewis, and wanted him to eventually replace Steve Beuerlein as the starting quarterback. In a shocking move, Seifert cut Beuerlein prior to the 2001 season with the intention of making Lewis the starter.

But after a subpar 2001 preseason, Lewis fell out of favor with Seifert, who named Chris Weinke starter before the season.

Carolina went on to finish with a franchise-worst 1-15 record in 2001, and Siefert was subsequently fired as head coach.

After a stint on the New Orleans Saints practice squad in 2002, Lewis hung up the cleats for good – but he couldn't stay away from the game he loved.

After spending three years on the Louisville coaching staff from 2007-2009, he returned to his alma mater as the wide receivers coach for the 2012 season.

Bryan Stoltenberg, who used to snap the ball to Lewis in practices and games during the late 1990s, died at his home in Sugarland, Texas, on Friday. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Stoltenberg shined at the University of Colorado, earning All-Big Eight honors twice in the mid-1990s. He was taken in the sixth-round of the 1996 draft by the San Diego Chargers. After spending one season each with the Chargers and Giants, Stoltenberg spent his final three NFL seasons with the Panthers from 1998-2000.

According to the University of Colorado website, Stoltenberg underwent several operations following a car accident in mid-December. The school also reports that an upcoming autopsy is expected to reveal a blood clot as the cause of death.

Stoltenberg was just 40 years old.

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Tags: Bryan Stoltenberg, Carolina, Carolina Panthers, Football, George Seifert, Jeff Lewis, NFL, Steve Beuerlein

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