Former USC football safety Kevin Ellison dies at 31

Photo by NFL Photos
Photo by NFL Photos /

Former USC football safety Kevin Ellison, who was a three-year starter and two-time All-Pac-10 first team selection for the Trojans, has died at 31.

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An icon of USC football’s Pete Carroll-era defenses has died.

Former Trojan safety Kevin Ellison, who lettered at USC from 2005 through 2008, passed away this week at the age of 31, USC Athletics confirmed Saturday on Twitter.

No cause of death has been revealed.

Ellison had an exceptional Trojan career. As a three-year starter, he was a two-time All-Pac-10 first team selection. He was a key figure on the 2008 defense, one of the greatest in USC history, dominating the secondary with his savvy play and hard hitting. Unfortunately, he missed the final five games of his senior season with injury.

Before that, the Redondo Beach-product had proven himself to be a promising player from the moment he stepped on campus. Though his freshman season was cut short by a knee injury, he was voted to The Sporting News Pac-10 All-Freshman first team.

Returning from that injury, he earned a starting job as a sophomore and played well enough to pick up an All-Pac-10 honorable mention.

By 2007, his impact had grown to essential alongside Taylor Mays at safety. As a junior, he notched eight tackles for loss, two interceptions, six deflections and two forced fumbles.

In all, Ellison finished with 174 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 18 deflections and five interceptions in his career. He won three Rose Bowl rings.

The NFL did not work out as well for Ellison as it might have seemed coming out of college. Drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round in 2009, the safety was released after just a year with the team having been arrested on suspicion of a controlled substance. Pete Carroll gave him a chance with the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, but he was ultimately released.

He coached briefly at the high school level and played for the Spokane Shock in the Arena Football League, but that tenure was ended when he was arrested on an arson charge under bizarre circumstances in 2012.

As news of his passing spread through the internet, teammates paid tribute to Ellison on social media:

There is only one thing left to say: Rest in peace and Fight On Forever.