Max Tuerk, an All-American center at USC who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, has died, USC announced Sunday. He was 26.
Tuerk died Saturday while hiking with his parents in the Cleveland National Forest, according to a statement from his family.
“Max loved his teammates, coaches and schools,” Tuerk’s family said in a statement. “Max was a loving son and older brother and his passing leaves a giant hole in our hearts. His strength and work ethic is an inspiration to many.”
Named The LA Times’ high school lineman of the year on the heels of a standout career at Santa Margarita High, Tuerk played for USC from 2012 to 2015. He was a Freshman All-American in 2012 and an All-Pac-12 first-team selection in 2014. Tuerk appeared in 38 games for the Trojans under three head coaches — Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Helton.
“Heartbroken by the loss of Max Tuerk,” USC football coach Clay Helton wrote in a tweet. “Incredible person, teammate, and Trojan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
The Chargers selected the Trabuco Canyon, California, native in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, but a knee injury stemming from his senior season at USC complicated his progress. Despite making the Chargers’ 53-man roster, he was inactive for all 16 games.
Before his second season, Tuerk was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He said he tested positive after taking over-the-counter supplements during the offseason.
The Arizona Cardinals signed him off the Chargers’ practice squad in November 2017. He played in one game with the Cardinals before being cut in April 2018.
“The news is hard to process, and all I can think of is how unbelievably sad I am — and all of us at the Chargers are — upon learning of Max’s passing,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said in a statement. “I’m heartbroken for his parents and family. Max had a tremendous passion for football and a quiet toughness that those who didn’t know him may have underestimated, but all of us who knew him appreciated. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Max’s family during this extremely difficult time.”
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