Kevin Ellison, a former hard-hitting safety at USC and Redondo Union alum, has died at 31 years old.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Ellison was struck about 11:05 p.m. Oct. 4 on the northbound side of the Golden State (5) freeway, south of San Fernando Mission Boulevard, by a 1990 Chevrolet Astro van driven by a 51-year-old Palmdale man.
Ellison was "walking back and forth'' in northbound lanes near the San Fernando Mission Boulevard off-ramp and was standing in the No. 2 lane when he was struck, the CHP reported. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Los Angeles County coroner's office records, his cause of death was pending additional investigation.
Ellison's family announced they will donate his brain for medical research.
Chris Ellison told the Los Angeles Times his brother's brain will be donated to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center which conducts research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other longterm consequences of repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel.
The school confirmed the 31-year-old Ellison' death in a social media post with a simple hashtag: #FightOnForever.'
Chris Ellison told The Times his brother was walking along the Golden State Freeway in the San Fernando Valley at the time of his death.
"He was disoriented and didn't know where he was at,'' Chris Ellison said. "`I'm sure he was trying to come home and find his family. We love him so much.''
Kevin Ellison, who played 13 games for the San Diego Chargers in 2009, struggled with mental health issues for several years, his brother said.
Kevin was a Inglewood native and Redondo Union High School graduate where he was a Daily Breeze All-Area Player of the Year as a senior, playing running back and linebacker.
He played for the Trojans from 2005 to 2008 and was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection known for delivering hard hits. The Chargers drafted him in the sixth round in 2009.
As a junior in 2007, he posted his best statistical season, finishing with 57 tackles, plus two interceptions and two sacks. He was a captain for the Trojans in 2008 on what was considered one of the best defenses in school history, though he missed several games that fall due to a knee injury.
Ellison was drafted by the Chargers in the sixth round in 2009. He played in 13 games for the team as a rookie, starting midway through the season and recording 50 total tackles, but was released the next year. He never appeared in another NFL game and was affected by various off-field issues.
In 2012, Ellison was arrested on federal arson charges while playing in the Arena Football League near Spokane, Wash., where he set his bed on fire at his apartment complex with a marijuana-filled cigar. He reportedly said “God” told him to do it. The case was eventually dismissed.
Two months following his arrest, his mother, Judy Reisner, told The Spokesman-Review that Ellison suffered from mental illness and was seeking treatment.
Before he was cut by the Chargers in 2010, Ellison was also arrested in Redondo Beach on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance when he was found with 100 Vicodin pills in his vehicle. Ellison had been stopped for speeding.
"Kevin was liked and loved by everybody,'' Chris Ellison said. "His smile and personality would light up a room.'' Chris Ellison told The Times his mom, sister, dad and brother did everything they could to try to help him.