Former Temple University football star fatally shot in Philadelphia

Zaire Williams, 25, was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital at 4:38 a.m. after he was shot in the head blocks away from his alma mater.
Image: Running back Zaire Williams #23 reacts after being tackled by the Fordam Rams linebacker Austin Hancock #44 on Sept. 14, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia
Running back Zaire Williams #23 reacts after being tackled by the Fordam Rams linebacker Austin Hancock #44 on Sept. 14, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.Mitchell Leff / Getty Images file

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A former Temple University football star was fatally shot in Philadelphia Monday, according to police and former teammates.

Zaire Williams, 25, was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital at 4:38 a.m. after he was shot in the head blocks away from his alma mater, NBC Philadelphia reported.

The gunman has not been identified, and no arrests have been made.

In 2013 and 2014, Williams played for the Division I Temple University Owls, where he ranked third on the team's all-time freshman rushing list, with 533 yards during his first year, when he was one of just 13 freshmen to play on the team. The media studies and production major also made the honor roll during his sophomore year.

After suffering a back injury at Temple, Williams transferred to the University of Maine, and played football there.

Prior to Temple, he was a running back at Timber Creek High School in New Jersey, where he was ranked the state's 16th best football player, according to a Temple roster.

"Thoughts and prayers to the family of former Temple Football player Zaire Williams," said a tweet from the Temple Owls Monday night.

Several of Williams' former teammates paid tribute to him on social media Monday. "I can't believe this news," wrote PJ Walker, a current XFL player.

A candlelight vigil was held at the Timber Creek football field Monday night.

"Zaire was a phenomenal player. Phenomenal person," Amin Muhammad, an assistant football coach for Timber Creek High School, told NBC Philadelphia. "Very encouraging. One of those people that you could depend on in tough situations. Either way, he was always there for you."

After high school, Williams was recruited by West Virginia University, the University of Pittsburgh, Indiana's Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Connecticut, the University of Iowa, Virginia's Old Dominion University and more, according to a 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer profile.

He said he decided to sign with Temple because he liked the coach's "vibe," and "I thought that Temple offered me a great opportunity to get a great education. When I'm finished playing football, my degree will carry weight wherever I go."