San Jose SaberCats player dies mysteriously

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Saturday night Johnie Kirton had one of the biggest moments of his career at the HP Pavilion as he scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime for the SaberCats. The 26-year-old was just traded to the SaberCats this month and showed promise immediately. He scored three touchdowns Saturday. Then on Monday night police found his body.

"An adult male was found deceased inside one of the rooms and there's no sign of a crime or any type of foul play," said Santa Clara Police Cpt. Phil Cooke.

Another player found him in his room at Mariani's Inn in Santa Clara. The team houses players at the hotel during the season.

Investigators won't say how Kirton died. The team's head coach and co-owner, Darren Arbet, released a statement saying, "He was such a great kid, and in the short time he was in San Jose he was such a valued member of our organization's family."

"I remember seeing him on Saturday night scoring the winning touchdown against the Rush," said Eric Thurow, the SaberCats Fan Club president. "I haven't missed a SaberCats home game since 2002."

Thurow placed flowers at the team's training facility in Sunnyvale on Tuesday after hearing about Kirton's death.

"He was on a major role, he was coming up, he was learning the offensive scheme, and fitting in so well," said Thurow.

Kirton was supposed to help take the SaberCats to the Arena Bowl in New Orleans. He was also slowly becoming part of the South Bay community.

"A lot of SaberCats they come around here and around this area and you talk to them just like they're your neighbor or somebody that's a real good friend," said Anthony Martinez, a SaberCats fan.

The SaberCats will play in Milwaukee next against the Milwaukee Mustangs. At that game the SaberCats will honor Curtain by wearing stickers of his number, 37, on their helmets.

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