Reche Caldwell

In this Dec. 31, 2006 photo, New England wide receiver Reche Caldwell catches a 62-yard touchdown pass against Tennessee. Caldwell, the former University of Florida and NFL receiver, was fatally shot Saturday, in his hometown. John Russell/Associated Press


TAMPA, Fla. — Reche Caldwell, a former receiver with New England who led the Patriots in receiving in 2006, was fatally shot Saturday night in his hometown.

Caldwell’s mother, Deborah, did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press on Sunday, but confirmed her son’s death to the Tampa Bay Times.

She said police told her they believe her son was ambushed outside his home in a possible robbery attempt.

The University of Florida and Caldwell’s three NFL teams – the Chargers, Patriots and Washington – were among those to tweet condolences to his family, along with former Florida coach Steve Spurrier and former Gators quarterback Rex Grossman. New England Coach Bill Belichick released a statement through the team.

“I am saddened to hear the news about Reche,” Belichick said. “He is remembered for his solid contributions to our team. My thoughts and prayers are with Reche’s family.”

Spurrier tweeted that Caldwell “was one of the best WR’s in school history and was very instrumental in winning the 2000 SEC Championship.”

“RIP Reche,” Grossman wrote. “You were one of my favorite teammates of all time. I will always remember our time at Florida for your unreal talent, infectious humor, and our shared success as a team. You will be missed by all your Gator family.”

Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady posted a photo tribute to his Instagram page, with one photo showing Brady and Caldwell in an on-field embrace.

Caldwell spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the then-San Diego Chargers, who selected him in the second round, 48th overall, in the 2002 draft after a standout career at Florida where he caught 141 passes for 2,088 yards and 18 touchdowns.

He joined New England in 2006 where he had the best season of his career. He spent one year in Foxborough and led the Patriots in catches (61), receiving yards (760) and shared the lead in touchdown catches (four) with Troy Brown in 2006. Caldwell also started three playoff games for the Patriots. He made 16 catches for 176 yards and one caught touchdown. In six NFL seasons, he had 152 catches for 1,851 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The 41-year-old Caldwell was not named in a police report on the incident per Florida law, but the report said, early in the investigation, the shooting “does not appear to be a random act.”

Caldwell was awaiting sentencing this month after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, along with several other former NFL players. He also served prison time on a 2014 drug charge.

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