"Max was a loving son and older brother and his passing leaves a giant hole in our hearts," Max Tuerk's family said in a statement

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Max Tuerk
Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/Getty

A former University of Southern California football player died after going on a hike with his family, the school confirmed in a statement issued on Sunday.

Max Tuerk, who pursued a career in the NFL after playing offensive lineman at USC, was with his parents during a trip to the Cleveland National Forest on Saturday when he died. The family did not provide any other details about what led to or caused Tuerk's death.

"Max loved his teammates, coaches, and schools," the family said of the 26-year-old in a statement tweeted by USC Athletics.

"Max was a loving son and older brother and his passing leaves a giant hole in our hearts," the statement continued. "His strength and work ethic is an inspiration to many."

Head coach Clay Helton said Tuerk was an "incredible person, teammate, and Trojan," in comments posted to his Twitter account on Sunday.

Max Tuerk
Max Tuerk
| Credit: Tommy LaPorte/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire/Getty

Tuerk played for the school from 2012 to 2015 and was a freshman All-American and an All-Pac-12 first-team selection during the 2014 season, according to ESPN.

Tuerk also played for coach Lane Kiffin, who reacted to the loss in a post to social media.

"This is awful. So sad. Praying for family and friends," Kiffin wrote on Twitter. "I always loved Max and one of my favorites. #FightOnForever, Max!!!!"

Tuerk was drafted by the then-San Diego Chargers in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. After testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, he was released from the team a year later. The Arizona Cardinals signed Tuerk after his stint in San Diego, and he was released in 2018.

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Tom Telesco, general manager of the Chargers, said Tuerk "had a tremendous passion for football and a quiet toughness that those who didn't know him might have underestimated, but all of us who knew him appreciated."

He added: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Max's family during this extremely difficult time."