RICHMOND, Va. -- Outside linebacker Jessie Lemonier, who appeared in seven games for the Detroit Lions in 2021 in a brief NFL career highlighted by a sack of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, has died. He was 25.
The Lions disclosed his death in a statement Thursday, adding they confirmed it with his family. They did not provide any details.
“Jessie was a model teammate and a wonderful young man who is gone far too soon," the Lions said. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Lemonier was signed to the Lions practice squad before the 2022 season, days before being released by the Los Angeles Chargers. He had 17 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, with the other half coming against Arizona on Dec. 19, 2021.
Liberty University, where Lemonier played for two seasons, said it also saw the Lions' statement on Twitter. It later got a call from its former coach and current Auburn coach Hugh Freeze about the player's death.
“The Liberty Athletics family is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of former Flames football great Jessie Lemonier,” the Lynchburg, Virginia, the school said in a statement. “Jessie was loved by Flames Nation for being a fierce competitor on the gridiron and cherished by his coaches and teammates in the locker room.”
Lemonier was waived by the Lions in May and claimed by Arizona. He spent the offseason with the Cardinals and part of training camp before being cut this past summer. He signed with the Houston Gamblers of the XFL in December and was traded to the Birmingham Stallions.
Lemonier was selected by the Arlington Renegades in the 2023 XFL Draft but opted to stay with the USFL.
After playing at Hialeah High School in Florida, Lemonier spent a season at Ventura College in California before transferring to Liberty, where he helped the school make the transition from the FCS to the FBS level during his two seasons (2018-19).
Lemonier capped his career at Liberty by earning MVP honors in the 2019 Cure Bowl, helping the Flames secure their first-ever bowl game victory. With the win over Georgia Southern, Liberty became the third FBS to win a bowl game during its first full season.
Lemonier ended his career for the Flames with 20 1/2 sacks, which ranked third at the time in program history. He was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent.