Former USF secondary coach Andre Waters, 44, allegedly committed suicide at his north Tampa home, where his body was found Monday morning with a gunshot wound to the head, a medical release stated.
Waters, a 12-year defensive back with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, was on the Bulls’ coaching staff from USF’s inaugural season in 1997 through the 1999 season.
Waters was the defensive coordinator at Fort Valley State University in Georgia before his death. During his NFL career Waters recorded 16 interceptions, 23 forced fumbles and 12 fumble recoveries.
“I can’t believe it,” said coach Richard Wood, a former Buccaneer safety who not only played with Waters in the NFL, but also employed him as a volunteer assistant while head coach at Wharton High School. “He was such a vibrant, fantastic guy – so full of life, who always had energy.
“I don’t know what could have happened in Andre’s life that would lead to him taking his life. I mean we all go through hard times, but this … this is unbelievable.”
Coach Jim Leavitt hired Waters seven months before USF’s first game against Kentucky Wesleyan in 1997.
“He was a tremendous guy,” Leavitt said. “He was a great coach for us. Those kinds of things nobody ever understands. They’ll never make any sense out of it because there is no sense in it.”
Sophomore Jamaal Jenkins and freshman Aston Samuels, who are brothers, were nephews of Waters. Samuels, a running back, is redshirting this season, while Jenkins has participated this season on special teams. Leavitt said he doesn’t expect Jenkins to make the trip to West Virginia for Saturday’s regular-season finale against the No. 7 Mountaineers.
“That’s totally up to Jamaal, but I talked to Jamaal and to Aston today, and I told them to go walk and think,” Leavitt said. “They need some time, and I’m sure they’ll get back with their family.”
According to Leavitt, Jenkins made his decision to come to USF at the request of Waters.
“Andre wanted him here with our program because Andre thought so much of our program,” Leavitt said.
Like Waters, former USF quarterback Chad Barnhardt was a member of the Bulls’ first team in 1997. Although Barnhardt played on the opposite side of the ball, he still has memories of Waters.
“He was always up, always excited about the game and being a part of our program,” Barnhardt said. “I’ll always remember him as somebody who always had full energy and was always pretty positive.”
Waters was in his first year as an assistant to Deondri Clark at FVSU, where they coached the Wildcats to a 4-7 record this season.
“FVSU and the Waters family have suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Coach Andre Waters,” Clark said in a statement. “Coach Waters was not just the FVSU defensive coordinator, he was my friend.
“He was a good man who loved his family and football. Football has lost a great person of character who had both a passion for the game and (for) young student-athletes.”