Shock and disbelief met news that Bears defensive end Gaines Adams died Sunday morning after going into cardiac arrest because of an enlarged heart, according to Greenwood (S.C.) County deputy coroner Marcia Kelley-Clark.
Adams, 26, had been taken to the emergency room at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood after going into cardiac arrest at his family's Greenwood home. He died at 7:21 Chicago time.
''This time, it turned out to be a tragedy. I just hope people remember him as the great guy he was.''
Adams, a native of Greenwood, was an All-American for the Tigers before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made him the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. He led all rookies with six sacks that season.
The Bears acquired Adams from the Buccaneers in October for a second-round pick in the 2010 draft. He saw limited action this season but was expected to play a bigger role for the Bears next season.
''I talked to Gaines a couple of weeks ago,'' former Buccaneers coach and current ''Monday Night Football'' analyst Jon Gruden said. ''I was telling him about [Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli], and he was very excited to get a fresh start, and I know Rod was very excited about working with him this offseason. They had big plans for him. You would've liked Gaines. Everybody who knew Gaines liked Gaines. This is a tragic loss for us all.''
Greenwood County coroner James T. Coursey said Adams appeared to be in perfect health, according to news reports. The Greenwood Sheriff's Office and the Greenwood County Coroner's Office are expected to investigate.
The Bears issued the following statement:
''We are stunned and saddened by the news of Gaines' passing. Our prayers are with his family during this difficult time.''
In high school, Adams was 6-4, 215 pounds with a 38-inch vertical jump and could run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He played defensive end for a small private school but was better known as a receiver, catching 158 passes for 4,394 yards (27.8 per catch) and 65 touchdowns. Defensively, he had 341 tackles, 33 sacks and 10 interceptions.
''They tried public school and didn't like it,'' Adams' mother, Linda, told the Orlando Sentinel in 2007 of her two children. ''They didn't like all the disrespect, with kids talking back to teachers. We didn't allow that in our home.''
He wasn't considered a major-college prospect because he posted his gaudy statistics while playing eight-man football. With his college options limited, he opted to attend Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he had 22 sacks in one season before signing with Clemson. He became the Tigers' all-time sack leader with 28, including 12Â½ as a senior.
''I was shocked and saddened to hear this news,'' said Tommy Bowden, who was the Tigers' coach during Adams' career at Clemson. ''When I heard the news, I thought it was his father because he has the same name. I just couldn't believe it was Gaines.''
Adams grew up rooting for the Buccaneers and idolizing former Mount Carmel and Illinois standout Simeon Rice. He was thrilled when the Buccaneers made him the first defensive player drafted in '07.
''Gaines was a quiet, humble kid and is far too young to be gone,'' Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber said. ''He had so much potential that had yet to be achieved, and I'm very sad that the full extent of his life won't be realized.''
Adams is survived by his 5-year-old son, longtime girlfriend, parents and sister, according to Stuckey. Funeral arrangements are pending.