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Former University of Michigan player Craig Roh dies at 33 of stage 4 colon cancer

Roh was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2022 and kept his diagnosis and treatment quiet.
Notre Dame v Michigan
Craig Roh in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2010.Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Craig Roh, a former college football standout at the University of Michigan, died Monday after an 18-month bout with colon cancer, his wife said.

He was 33 years old.

“God brought Craig home,” Chelsea Roh wrote on X. “Craig was not very public with his battle.”

According to a GoFundMe that Chelsea Roh shared, doctors diagnosed Craig Roh with stage 4 colon cancer in August 2022. The GoFundMe noted that the money raised will help Chelsea Roh and her son, Max, pay off medical expenses and cover school for him.

“Craig did not want to go public with his diagnosis and battle because in true Craig fashion, he did not want the attention to be on him,” the GoFundMe stated. “From chemo to targeted therapy to clinical trials at MD Anderson and in Honduras, Craig was resilient till the very end.”

Colon cancer in young people

Colon cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in men under 50, according to a recent report from the American Cancer Society.

“The continuous sharp increase in colorectal cancer in young Americans is alarming,” Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, senior author of the study and senior vice president of surveillance and healthy equity science at the American Cancer Society, said in a press release. “We need to halt and reverse this trend.”

Over the past several decades, colorectal cancer’s prevalence has been increasing in young people for reasons that are not quite clear to experts.

“The quick answer is we don’t have a perfect understanding of why it is happening,” Dr. David Liska, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Cleveland Clinic told last year. “We do know that it is happening, and it’s happening consistently now for the last two decades at least.”

Symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:

  • Bloody stool
  • Changing bowel habits
  • Unexplained stomach pain
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Exhaustion

A love of sports, God and family

When Craig Roh was about 6, he began playing football and basketball before dedicating himself solely to football, according to his GoFundMe. During his sophomore year of high school, he became a varsity starter as a defensive end.

His skill on the field did not go unnoticed, and he received a full scholarship to play at the University of Michigan from 2009 to 2012, according to the Michigan football roster. He set a record for most starts, and his junior year, he was part of a Sugar Bowl-winning team, and he earned his third varsity letter according to 2012 Michigan football roster.

“Throughout all of this, Craig still maintained his faith in Jesus and was a light to his friends, family and church,” the GoFundMe said.

After a year in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers, he played in the Canadian Football League on the BC Lions for three years before he moved to Winnipeg for two. After football, he began working in the tech industry in Austin, Texas.

Craig and Chelsea Roh married in 2016 and welcomed a son in 2021.

“It’s hard to put into words the impact that Craig has had on so many people. He was a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend and a teammate,” the GoFundMe said. “Despite all of his accomplishments, Craig always led with vulnerability, humility and humor. Craig didn’t care about the frivolous things in life. He wanted to spend all of his time caring, loving and building a life around the things he believed mattered.”