Officials say an autopsy could be performed today on the award-winning former USC offensive lineman Max Tuerk, who died while on a hike with his parents on a trail in the Cleveland National Forest over the weekend.
The 26-year-old was pronounced dead at 3:14 p.m. on Saturday at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Supervising Deputy Orange County Coroner Erica Arellano said. There was no immediate indication of what caused Tuerk's sudden death, Arellano said.
“Max loved his teammates, coaches and schools,'' his 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.''
Tuerk was perhaps best known as a former USC offensive lineman who was the first-team All-Pac-12 center as a junior in 2014 and started 5 games in the 2015 season as center, until he sustained a season-ending injury when he tore ligaments in his right knee and underwent surgery.
“Heartbroken by the loss of Max Tuerk,'' Trojans coach Clay Helton tweeted. “Incredible person, teammate, and Trojan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.''
The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Tuerk was a captain for both of his final two seasons with the Trojans, and went on to win USC's Most Inspirational Player Award. He was later selected by the San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft (66th overall) and was inactive during the team's last 16 games in San Diego.
Tuerk was later suspended without pay for the first four games of the season in 2017 for violating the NFL policy on using performance-enhancing substances.
Tuerk apologized to his team, saying he made a mistake of taking over-the-counter supplements during the off-season.
"In doing so, I opened myself up to the possibility of consuming a tainted supplement -- something that ultimately led to a positive test for a banned substance," Tuerk said at the time of his suspension. "I accept responsibility for my actions and understand the NFL's policy is very clear on this matter. This is a very hard way to learn a lesson and I will never make this mistake again.''
Tuerk was waived by the Chargers in Oct. 2017 one day after he became re-eligible to return to the team's active roster. At the time, coach Anthony Lynn said they were already "pleased with the guys that we have."
Tuerk was later signed to the Arizona Cardinals in November of 2017 and played his sole NFL game on Dec. 24, 2018. He was released by the Cardinals on April 12, 2018.
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