What everyone around Carolina football hoped would be a story with a happy ending tragically came to a close on a Florida highway Tuesday night.
Ryan Hoffman was killed when the bicycle he was riding was struck by a car on an unlit strip of U.S. 17/92 North at Lee Jackson Highway in Haines City, Fla.
According to Haines City police reports, Hoffman was heading north on his bicycle in the southbound lane of U.S. 17/92 about 6:30 p.m. Francis Gulzinski, 65, of Haines City, was heading south in his 1987 Ford Mustang when he spotted the man and slammed on his brakes. Gulzinski was unable to stop in time and Hoffman was thrown from the bicycle, striking the Mustang’s windshield and roof.
Hoffman was taken to Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center, where he was declared dead.
Hoffman was a three-year Letterman from 1995-96 and was the starting left tackle on the Tar Heel football teams of 1996-97 that won 21 games and finished back-to-back in the top 10 in the nation. While several of his teammates, including center Jeff Saturday and numerous defensive players, went on to careers in the NFL, Hoffman bounced around from one situation to another, and his story was told in early March by The New York Times.
The Carolina community and Lettermen from near and far rallied around his cause immediately, and he spent time last spring in Chapel Hill before returning to Florida.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Hoffman, a former Carolina football letter winner — and a great friend and teammate to so many Tar Heels,” Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said. “Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”