Gabe Rivera, the overpowering "Senor Sack'' lineman for Texas Tech who was paralyzed in a car accident while a Pittsburgh Steelers rookie, has died. He was 57.
The university on Tuesday confirmed Rivera's death. He had been living in San Antonio with his wife, Nancy, who told KENS-TV her husband had taken ill last week and died Monday night. Rivera, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, played at Texas Tech from 1979 to 1982 and was an All-America defensive lineman. He had five sacks and 62 tackles as a senior in 1982.
"He was one of the most dominating defensive lineman to ever play the game and a loyal Red Raider throughout his life,'' Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said.
Rivera was drafted 21st overall by Pittsburgh in 1983. He had two sacks in his first six games, but in October of that year he was in an automobile accident that left him a paraplegic. He was intoxicated when his car collided with another vehicle.
"From the accident in '83, it took maybe five, six, eight years to get control,'' Rivera said in 2012 on the day he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. "At one time, I just changed my life and started going forward.
He added: "I was mad at the world, mad at God and stuff.''
Rivera went to high school in San Antonio before heading to West Texas to play for the Red Raiders. He returned to San Antonio after his injury. He met his wife at the San Antonio zoo and remained active in the community.
In addition to his wife of 18 years, he is survived by two children, Timothy and Rae.