A descent into pain and paranoia the life and death of daniel te’o-nesheim – west hawaii today

A standout at the University of Washington who played four years with the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers until 2013, Te’o-Nesheim was 30 when he was found dead in a friend’s house last October with a mix of alcohol and painkillers in his body. Neuroscientists later found chronic traumatic encephalopathy — the degenerative diseaselinked to repeated blows to the head — in his brain.

In his final years, Te’o-Nesheim’s deteriorating behavior concerned his family and friends, who knew him as easygoing, giving and sincere. He changed, they said, after he made it to Tampa, where he became more distant, depressed and distrustful, according to medical reports and interviews with more than a dozen friends, family and doctors.

As in other cases involving CTE, they blamed his hectic schedule during his playing days, or trouble adjusting to life after he was released by the Buccaneers in 2013.


In reality, he was grappling with a host of orthopedic injuries, the effects of roughly 100 concussions (including 10 that left him unconscious), the drugs he took to cope with the pain, and a disease that can transform someone’s personality.

At the University of Washington, he was an ebullient presence even though the Huskies were a dismal 14-35 in his four years on the team, including an 0-12 campaign in 2008. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, and 263 pounds, Te’o-Nesheim was not the largest defensive lineman. But he practiced to the point of collapse, forcing trainers to make sure he was hydrated on hot days.

He was also reunited with Mason Foster, a college teammate who entered the NFL in 2011. They ate together often, at restaurants that Te’o-Nesheim would pick, or at Foster’s apartment, where they would cook Spam and rice — a Hawaiian staple — and Samoan dishes. They watched the television show “Man v. Food.” Foster said Te’o-Nesheim demolished a 48-ounce steak at a steakhouse.

The injuries continued. According to his notes, Te’o-Nesheim damaged his finger, injured his neck, suffered chronic headaches and continued to struggle with ankle and shoulder pain. He rarely spoke to his family about the physical toll, but there were signs of drug use. In his journal, he wrote that he had trouble sleeping and a team doctor prescribed Ativan, a sedative. Doctors also prescribed painkillers like Tramadol, Percocet and Vicodin.

Without football, though, Te’o-Nesheim’s life in Tampa was untethered. Depression set in. He was ashamed of failing to make it in the NFL, according to family and friends. His paranoia deepened. He insisted he was being followed and thought maids were going through his trash, so he moved hotels. He complained that someone was using his credit card, only to realize that he had made the purchases but had forgotten.

In May 2014, Daniel left a voice message in which, in a faraway voice, he asked Monaghan to call him. Concerned, she called the police in Tampa to ask if they would check up on her nephew. Monaghan sent a text to her sister, Daniel’s mother, with an update, telling her that Daniel had thanked his aunt for sending the officer to check on him.

Te’o-Nesheim’s former agent, Eric Kaufman, said his client told him he was “lost without football,” yet he canceled at trip to Buffalo, New York, to workout with the Bills. Te’o-Nesheim changed his cellphone number. Hotels evicted him for not paying. When hotel workers entered his unit, they said it looked like a tornado had blown through.

Te’o-Nesheim returned to Hawaii in the summer of 2015 a changed man — for worse and for better. He was forgetful, overwhelmed, mentally and physically disorganized and dismissive, his sister said. He played down the pain in his knees, shoulders and back, and the constant headaches and the Tylenol he took daily. His clinical summary said that he drank three to five times a week, “frequently excessively.”