Oakland Raiders: LB Ben Heeney Suffers Terrible Personal Tragedy


Oakland Raiders second year linebacker Ben Heeney has found himself dealing with a terrible personal tragedy — the loss of a beloved friend.

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Oakland Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney, just a couple of weeks removed from walking away from what could have been a truly horrific car accident completely unscathed, must now deal with one of life’s darkest and most difficult realities – the suicide of a good friend.

Brandon Bourbon had been a teammate of Heeney’s while at the University of Kansas. Over their three seasons playing together, they formed a bond. They’d become brothers. But after three injury plagued seasons that limited him to just 81 carries over his time at Kansas, he transfered to Division II Washburn in Topeka.

Though he led Washburn’s team in rushing, with 937 yards and was named the team’s co-player of the year on offense, Bourbon’s 2014 season ended without and he had to begin trying to adjust to life without football. It was an adjustment that a friend of his, Devin Hampton, suggests he was having difficulty with, and may have been a factor in his death.

"“Everybody asked him, ‘When’s the (NFL) Draft? When are you going to do this? When are you going to do that?’ Everybody’s trying to force these plans on him, I felt like. Those things may not have completely changed him, but I felt like they did have something to do with his final mind-set and how he viewed the world. He was just struggling to figure out who he was and what he ended up really wanting to do with his life.”"

According to Hampton, Bourbon’s struggles about what he was going to do with his life, as well as trying to settle back in to life in the small town of Potosi, may have taken a mental and emotional toll on the 24 year old former running back.

"“Something was just not right about him. He was not his same self that we’ve seen for the rest of his life besides these last week and a half, two weeks.”"

Bourbon went missing on April 2, and was found a little more than a week later in Maries County, MO – about 80 miles from his hometown. He died in his van from what authorities are describing as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After learning of his friend’s death, Heeney took to social media to pay tribute to his friend as well as to share the thoughts and emotions he was struggling with on his own.

On Instagram, Heeney has posted a number of different pictures of he and Bourbon, but this is perhaps the most poignant:

"“I didn’t know what you were going through. I have never had this much regret in my life. I wish I could have helped you bro I just didn’t know what u were struggling with and what u we’re going through. Brandon you were my best friend, I love you bro more than u will ever know. U taught me so much about life that no one else ever could. Rest in peace to the best guy I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a friend. You will always be with me.”"

In another Instagram picture he posted, Heeney said that just three weeks ago, he and Bourbon were talking about their dreams and their futures and it’s clear that he is struggling with understanding why his friend would take his own life.

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Sometimes, it’s easy to not see the pain and inner turmoil somebody is in. Especially when they take steps to mask it. Suicide is never easy for anybody – those whose pain is so great that they feel it’s their only option, and those who are left to pick up the pieces afterward.

Brandon Bourbon’s story is a tragic one and we hope that he can now rest easy, free from whatever pain he was in.

And it seems like a good time to encourage anybody who finds themselves in crisis, in extreme mental and emotional pain, to reach out, to seek help. If you can’t turn to friends or family, there are any number of hotlines for people in crisis that you can call.

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The Raider Nation mourns with Heeney and with the Bourbon family. And we think it would be great if you stopped by Heeney’s social media pages like Twitter or Instagram to show him a little love during this difficult time. It would be great if you showed him that the Nation is a family.