Daren Gilbert played four seasons in the NFL after being drafted 38th overall by the New Orleans Saints in 1985. After football, he devoted his life to teaching and coaching youth in Southern California, where he was born and raised. During his later years, he struggled with depression and changed into a different person than the one his family knew. Gilbert passed away unexpectedly in August 2022 at the age of 58. His family later decided to donate his brain to the UNITE Brain Bank, where Dr. Ann McKee diagnosed him with stage 2 (of 4) CTE. Below, his wife Alayna shares the Legacy of a man gone too soon.
Daren Gilbert was born October 3, 1963 in San Diego, CA. The Gilbert family relocated to Compton, CA where Daren attended Emerson Elementary School, Ambassador Christian School in Downey, CA, and graduated in 1981 from Dominguez High School in Compton. Daren obtained his Bachelors of Science in criminal justice from California State University Fullerton and later received his Master’s Degree in Education Administration from California State University of San Bernardino.
In high school, Daren played both basketball and football. Football became his passion and he earned a full ride scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. He started in every game for three seasons and was the team’s co-captain. The CSUF Titans won the PCAA Championship in 1983 and 1984, played in the Cal Bowl in 1983 and the undefeated 1984 Titan team was inducted into the CSUF Hall of Fame in 2019. Daren was an all-star selection to play in the East-West Shrine game in 1985. That same year, the New Orleans Saints drafted him 38th overall. Today, he holds the record for the highest NFL draft round pick from Cal State Fullerton. Daren was a member of the first winning team for the Saints. Daren’s older brother, Darren Comeux also played 10 years in the NFL and in 2009 his son, Jarron Gilbert was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears. All three are proud members of the NFLPA. After the NFL, Daren devoted his life to teaching and coaching. He coached several sports and positively impacted the lives of many youth in Southern California.
What happened to my best friend? A Wife’s Story
Daren had various struggles throughout life after playing in the NFL. Married 36 years, we worked diligently to solve most problems. Daren developed many tools to function in life. We were working with The Cleveland Clinic, Boston University CTE Center, and the NFLPA - The Trust to develop strategies to live a functioning life with CTE. COVID caused new problems. Many of the tools we were using were greatly impacted by COVID and Daren began to change into a different person.
COVID had a drastic impact on our relationship. The restraints of being confined and not following his daily routine made him angry and difficult to live with. I became scared and concerned. Most of his acts of anger were directed towards me and he didn’t remember doing the act after it occurred. My best friend turned into a stranger. Soon the CTE behavior consumed him. This began a downward spiral into a dark world. Daren was a beautiful person murdered by CTE.
On Thursday, August 4, 2022 at home, Daren suddenly and unexpectedly transitioned from this life to eternity. Daren is survived by his wife of 36 years, Alayna McGee Gilbert, his children Jarron Gilbert (Cassandra) and Kourtney Gilbert, and grandchildren Londyn, Jayda and Amari Gilbert, and Laila Criscione. Daren was a great human and will be greatly missed by all.
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