ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tom Heckert, a longtime personnel executive in the NFL who spent his final five years in the league with the Denver Broncos, died Sunday night. He was 51.
After beginning his career in 1991 as a scout for the Miami Dolphins, Heckert spent 27 years in the NFL, including stints as general manager for the Cleveland Browns (2010-12) and Philadelphia Eagles (2006-09). Heckert was hired by Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway in May 2013.
Heckert was the Broncos' director of player personnel for four seasons and was a senior personnel adviser in 2017. After the 2017 season, Heckert, who had battled amyloidosis for several years, stepped away from the team for health reasons.
Amyloidosis is a protein disorder of the blood that can be difficult to diagnose, and there is no cure.
During his time with the Broncos, the team won three AFC West titles, played in two Super Bowls and won Super Bowl 50. Heckert's father, Tom Sr., worked for more than two decades in the NFL as well.
Heckert got off to a rocky start with the Broncos when he was arrested in June 2013 and charged with driving under the influence and careless driving. At the time, Elway and Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis expressed their disappointment in the arrest, but both stood by Heckert in the months and years that followed as he carved out what Elway has routinely described as an important role with the team.
"Tom was an integral part of our organization and we're all incredibly saddened [Monday]," Elway said in a statement. "With his many years of experience and time as a GM, Tom was a tremendous resource and a key member of our team. He was a very good evaluator -- he had an eye for talent, and we always trusted his voice. It's easy to see why Tom was widely respected and had so many great relationships across the league. I'll always be grateful for how he helped me transition into this position. My prayers go out to Tom's family, friends and everyone he worked with during his career."
Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell, who also worked with Heckert with the Eagles, said in a statement: "Tom hired me in Philadelphia and was a beloved friend for many years. The biggest thing with Tom was his loyalty, how he cared about his friends and how good he was at his job. Tom was one of the best because he combined exceptional player evaluation skills with his incredible network of connections around the NFL. Those relationships he formed are a testament to how well he treated everyone. Tom was a loyal friend and my heart goes out to his family."
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman also offered their condolences.
"Tom gave everything he had to this organization for nine seasons and played a major role in the construction and success of our team during that time," Lurie said. "In addition to being a talented evaluator and respected voice, he was a mentor and friend to so many within our organization and around the league. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and worked with him and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time."
"His record as a GM was outstanding," Roseman added. "When he worked here everyone wanted to be around him and listen to his stories about his time in the league and his experiences around the game. He was one of the first people to congratulate us all when we won the Super Bowl. Thoughts and prayers with his family, including his kids."
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Tom Heckert and share our sincerest condolences with his family and friends, including the many lives he impacted with the Browns organization and throughout the entire NFL during his established career," the Browns said in a team statement.