ALBUQUERQUE — The death of University of New Mexico football player Nahje Flowers was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the Albuquerque Police Department said.
Flowers, 21, was found dead in his off-campus residence the morning of Nov. 5. Police were dispatched to his residence after a call was made about a potential suicide, said APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
A native of Los Angeles who was in his junior season, Flowers had played in five games this season and was a starter on the defensive line.
A roommate of Flowers’ said he had seen him early on the morning of Nov. 5 before the roommate left for class. The roommate said Flowers remained behind.
He apparently died by suicide 20 minutes later.
Rumors of how Flowers had died had circulated for more than a week, but no one at UNM would say how he died. Several indications that he had died by suicide had been posted on social media.
One of his roommates said Flowers had left a note that was briefly shared on social media, with parts of it blacked out. The post was taken down in just a matter of minutes.
This is the third death of a UNM student-athlete this year. In May, Lobo baseball player Jackson Weller was shot to death outside a UNM-area nightclub. Former football player Romell Jordan died Feb. 27 of undisclosed causes.
The football program also lost defensive back Markel Byrd in a 2015 auto accident near Gallup.
In August, athletic director Eddie Nuñez attended an Associated Students of UNM Senate meeting and said he wanted to increase mental health support for student-athletes in the wake of Jordan and Jackson’s deaths. He has not indicated what steps have been taken.
After Flowers’ death, the Mountain West Conference postponed last Saturday’s UNM game with Air Force until Nov. 23. The university provided mental health professionals to the football team, but the support wasn’t necessarily greeted warmly by everyone.
“This is all we know,” said senior Aaron Blackwell after the team’s Sunday practice. “If you want to send guys to class or put them in front of a counselor — we’re football players, like we don’t talk to counselors, you know what I mean? They tried bringing them in early on and it was just almost, like, a negative.”
The football team held a private memorial service for Flowers on Nov. 8 at the Tow Diehm Facility inside Dreamstyle Stadium. A number of teammates shared stories about Flowers, some referencing an unorthodox personality that made him popular among those who knew him best.
“He was actually a pretty gentle guy, worked hard and all that but he definitely lived his life a different way,” Blackwell said. “You’ve heard guys say this a lot, but he was a character. He didn’t seem to mind that he was different.”
Senior Alex Hart talked about a pet snake Flowers kept at one point. Flowers posted a picture of it on Instagram on April 10.
“I’d tell him he was crazy for having those reptiles in your house and whatnot,” Hart said. “But it’s just the type of guy he was. And he was always changing his hair color; I swear, he had every single color of hair since he first got here.”
Flowers’ family has been in Albuquerque this week talking to the coaching staff and players before heading back to California this weekend.
Staff reporter Danielle Prokop contributed to this report.