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Rashard Anderson, former Carolina Panthers first-round pick and Jackson State star, dies at age 45

Rashard Anderson, a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2000 NFL draft, has died. He was 45.

Anderson's death has been confirmed by the Panthers, who said he died Wednesday in Mississippi, and by Jackson State University, where he was a star cornerback from 1996 to 1999.

The cause of Anderson's death was unknown as of Thursday morning.

"Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones," the Panthers said in a statement.

Anderson was selected by Carolina with the 23rd overall pick in the 2000 draft and appeared in 27 games -- nine starts -- for the Panthers. He was suspended for the entire 2003 season for violating the substance abuse policy and did not play again in the NFL.

Anderson helped Jackson State win the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a freshman in 1996 and led the Tigers to the SWAC Eastern Division title in 1999. He was joined by teammate Sylvester Morris (Kansas City Chiefs, 21st overall) as first-round picks in the 2000 draft.

"Today is a sad day for the JSU family," Ashley Robinson, Jackson State vice president and director of athletics, said Wednesday in a statement. "Rashard was one of the best players in the history of our football program and an outstanding person. He attended our spring football game in April and was excited about the program returning to championship status. Rashard will always be remembered by Jackson State University, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."