Former Plant High football player identified as victim in deadly Tampa shooting

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A former Plant High School football player was shot and killed in his home over the weekend, police announced Monday morning.

Tampa police the roommate of 26-year-old Eric Patterson woke up around 5 a.m. Saturday after hearing a commotion in the house on West Plaza Place. Investigators said the roommate found a stranger in the living room with Patterson lying on his back suffering an apparent gunshot wound. The stranger took off.

Patterson was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died. Police did not say whether the roommate was able to identify the stranger, but they don't think the attack was random. Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information in the case.

Meanwhile, those who knew Patterson are stunned. His mother, Devona Sanders broke down when speaking with FOX 13 about the sudden loss of her son, who was a standout football player at Plant High School.

“He had two beautiful daughters they will sadly miss him,” she said through tears.

She pleaded with the yet-unknown suspect to turn themselves in.

“If you have a heart, could you please bring us the comfort, why did you do this?” she said. ”If anyone knows anything about the murder of Eric I would appreciate it if you would let us know.”

After high school, Patterson played football at Ball State in Indiana. After college, he played cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts in August 2015 and had short stints with the St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns.

“We had close relationship and he told me he lived out his dreams so I know, I know he's happy wherever he's at,” his mother told FOX 13.

Patterson’s former coach at Plant High School, Robert Weiner, shared his condolences in a Twitter post on Sunday writing in part, “Sad, heartbreaking time for our Plant Panthers Football family. Eric Patterson will always be a loved Panther.”

Ball State University Coach Mike Neu tweeted a tribute to Patterson Monday morning. 

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“We are mourning the passing of one of our own, Eric Patterson. We are extremely saddened by this, and we ask that you please keep Eric and his family in your prayers,” Neu wrote. “Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal.”