SANTA CLARA, Calif. - A former University of Washington football star was found dead in a hotel room, but his cause of death remains a mystery.
Johnie Kirton, who was playing this season with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League, was found dead in a Santa Clara hotel room Monday night.
The 26-year-old was having an outstanding career playing arena football, and those who knew him during his time with the Huskies said he made a huge impact off the field as well.
“We lost a really, really good human being today,” said former UW teammate Brad Vanneman.
Vanneman said Kirton carried an inner light, passion and a love for people and life that extended far beyond the football field.
“He brought a light to pretty much everyone he touched,” said Vanneman. “He left them a better person than what they were before. If you talk to any one of his friends or teammates, I think they’ll give you the same sentiment. I think that’s the mark of a quality human being, and he just drew people to him, (he was) just one of those guys.”
Kirton was found dead hours after scoring the winning touchdown for the SaberCats.
Joel Vincent, who was Kirton's high school coach, said Kirton made an impact on children and people accustomed to living on the sidelines of life.
“One day in the cafeteria he was hanging around a bunch of athlete football guys eating lunch. And I think I came back five minutes later, and he was playing a card game, by himself, with one of our special ed students. I mean, that’s just the kind of guy he was,” said Vincent.