The Leader

Former NFL quarterback Jeff Komlo had everything—money, a doting family, a mansion in Bryn Mawr. It all came apart on the Main Line, and it ended in the wreckage of a car accident in Greece. What follows is Komlo’s tragic story as it should be told, from those who knew him best.

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” —St. Matthew

Illustration by Lincoln AdamsHe was born in Cheverley, Md., on July 30, 1956. You could argue, however, that the life of William “Jeff” Komlo really began at Franklin Field on Oct. 2, 1976. The surface of the old ballpark was slick from a steady rain, and most of the 15,851 in attendance were huddled in its dampened bowels until kick-off. The Temple Owls were coming into the game with a 2-2 record and showcasing a bona-fide NFL prospect named Joe Klecko.

On the visiting side, the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens were out to revenge a 45-0 loss to Temple the year before. Earlier in the week, Delaware head coach Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond had made the decision to start the sophomore Komlo at quarterback. Given that he’d only gotten a spot look in a loss the week before, he was a long shot.

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In a life that seemed spun from juxtaposition and irony, it was perhaps fitting that the formal introduction of Komlo occurred in Philadelphia at one of the most storied football stadiums in America—and just miles from where his life would eventually unravel and show itself, unmercifully, to the Main Line community in which he lived. For the first 40 years of his life, Komlo’s story was chiseled from the bedrock beliefs in hard work and dedication he was raised on. And it continued, after a career in football, with accumulated wealth, a beautiful family and a 7,000-square-foot home in Bryn Mawr.

Komlo had been anointed with success at an early age, and he spent the rest of his life chasing after it with mind-blowing intensity. Everyone around him knew he was going too damn fast—everyone, it seems, but him.

The former NFL quarterback’s last 12 years were a tangle of police blotters, accusations, grief and, finally, disappearance. It all ended on March 14, 2009, when Komlo died at age 52 from injuries sustained in a car accident in Greece, where he’d lived the last four years of his life as a fugitive from justice.

This is a story of a man who had—and lost—everything.

Jeff Komlo at the University of DelawareJeff Komlo had arrived at the University of Delaware as a walk-on the year before from DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland by way of Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. His performance on the freshman team put him at No. 4 on the QB depth chart, and his coach openly questioned Komlo’s dedication to football.

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“I told his father that his son was a poor leader, and I needed a quarterback who the team would rally around,” Tubby Raymond recalls. “Jeff thought he was better than all his coaches thought he was, but the truth was that he hadn’t distinguished himself.”

In the summer that would change his life, Komlo returned to College Park and worked from 7 to 4 for the Transit Rail System in nearby Washington, D.C. When he wasn’t on the job, he ran up and down the steps of the empty Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland, a Hail Mary pass away from his home.

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The year at Fork Union had given his life structure, led by the school’s edicts: organization, discipline and the desire not to fail. They fed into his workout regimen that summer. In many ways, though, the script had already been written for him years before. His father, William, was a fullback at the University of Maryland in the 1950s, until a leg injury suffered in his sophomore year ended his career.

A focused Komlo (right) on the fieldAfter college, William and his wife, Jackie, settled in College Park, where they had four children: Debbie, Jeff, Wendy and Drew. Although he doted over all four of his children, he passed on his love of sports first to Jeff and then to Drew, often demanding the most from them. The Komlo boys didn’t just toss a ball around. They did wind sprints. They watched game films. They lifted weights until they nearly dropped from exhaustion. They were asked to establish personal goals.

“I felt that, to be successful, you had to run over everyone,” says William Komlo today. “At times, I was more aggressive than other fathers, but I felt that, because of my failure [as a football player], I wanted my boys to be successful.”

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Looking back, Drew, now 44, sees his father’s toughness in a positive light. “As Jeff and I shared the common bond of being pushed, we both understood it was never in a mean way. It was never, ‘You should do this,’ but more, ‘You’re going to do it this way,’” says the former Maryland quarterback. “My father’s intensity and teaching was the best thing that ever happened to us. It’s a work ethic that was pushed to the extreme. We translated it to business after our football careers were over. Jeff and I had that personality, that survival instinct, the athlete’s wiring. But sometimes with that, you tend to burn up what it costs to win.”

After Jeff’s poor performance his freshman year, William set out to make his son’s football career “right.” He regularly drove two hours from College Park to the UD campus in Newark to watch practice. He often brought steaks with him, cooking them in the kitchen of his son’s apartment near campus. When Komlo came back to UD in the fall, “he was infallible,” says his former coach. “He came back a leader—but this time, it was more confidence than cockiness,” Raymond remembers. “I assumed immediately that he wanted to excel, to be better than average. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen; nobody goes from being a walk-on one year to being a starter the next. He just wanted to succeed so much.”

That night on Franklin Field against Temple, Komlo was electric. Working out of Raymond’s vaunted Wing-T formation, he confused the opposing defense all night long. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 201 yards in the rain, ran for two touchdowns, and led a UD offense that gained 322 total yards in an 18-16 upset victory. Komlo left the city as the Blue Hens’ starting quarterback—a role he wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of his college career.

More importantly, his coach had found a leader. For Komlo, it was the first night of what would be a nearly three-year reign of success at UD. He’d win East Coast Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors that year, and over the next three seasons, set 11 school records, pass for 5,256 yards and lead his team to three post-season appearances, including the 1978 national title game in his senior year.

“Outside of my father and Bill Giles of the Phillies, the most influential person I’ve ever known was Jeff Komlo,” says Dave Raymond, the son of Tubby Raymond and a punter on the Komlo-led teams of the late ’70s, who later found fame as the original Phillie Phanatic mascot. When he first got to UD, however, he was ostracized by his teammates for being the coach’s son—nothing more than a nepotism charity case. Komlo took the younger Raymond under his wing. “Jeff was one of the first people to come to me and tell me not to pay attention to it,” he recalls. “His actions seemed to say to me, ‘I’m always going to be one of your guys.’”

On UD’s leafy campus, Komlo cultivated a sense of himself that would come to define him for the remainder of his life. He seemed to be born to carry the arrogance that followed him. Teammates worshipped him. Some were afraid of him. It wasn’t uncommon for offensive linemen to get a boot in the crotch from Komlo if he thought they weren’t giving their best effort.

At a school where football ruled the athletics program, Komlo was its first matinee idol. He had the killer-cool look of a surfer, set off with an intense gaze that drew the attention of coeds. Over the years, the UD program has become known as a breeding ground for future NFL quarterbacks—Scott Brunner, Rich Gannon and now Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens are the other members of the elite fraternity. The succession began with Komlo. From 1976 to 1978, he was Namath in Newark.

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“Here’s a story that will tell you all you need to know about who he was back then,” says Kevin Tresolini of the Wilmington News Journal, who wrote for UD’s newspaper at the time. “It was the third game of Komlo’s junior year, and he was struggling against Morgan State and had fallen behind by a few touchdowns. Tubby benched him for a guy named Jim Castellino, who brought the team back. Although it ended in a 29-29 tie, the story of the game was Castellino, which was what I wrote about.”

Komlo was scheduled to start the next week’s game, so Tresolini interviewed him. “He leaned against a locker wall and gave me one-word answers,” recalls the reporter. “After the interview, I thanked him, turned to walk away, and he called back to me, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, ‘Hey, Kevin. Nice article.’”

Tom Tomashek has covered UD football for the News Journal for 40 years, and his take on Komlo at the time is far from flattering. “There always seemed to be a side to Komlo that said rules weren’t applicable to him,” he says. “He didn’t lack for confidence or belief in himself. He turned people off by his demeanor. Gannon, Brunner and Flacco were total class all the way. Jeff was a gentleman at the right time, but his arrogance detracted from his class.”

When Jennifer Aldrich arrived on the University of Delaware campus in the fall of 1978, she found it was like immigrating to a foreign country. UD was a party school, and everyone was football crazy. The attractive 18-year-old freshman from Bryn Mawr didn’t drink, and when it came to football, she didn’t know a PAT from an INT.

Aldrich first met Komlo at a party. Initially, there was little for them to talk about. “I thought, ‘There is no way I’ll go out with him,’” she says. “But he kept calling me, and I kept putting him off. I told him, ‘You can have any woman on this campus. Leave me alone.’”

Komlo persisted. They went to a movie. On the walk home, she saw the rarely seen side of him. Soft. Caring. Attentive. She fell in love. Aldrich became Komlo’s first girlfriend. He was 22.

A memento from his NFL daysNinth round picks in the National Football League don’t normally stick, so when the Detroit Lions drafted Komlo in the spring of 1979, his chances of actually making the team were slim at best. Positioning meant nothing to him; he’d been through this before at UD. And so, with the same gut-check persistence he used to go from a walk-on to an All-American, Komlo sweated through two-a-days at the Lions training camp and “went north” with the club as the No. 3 quarterback.

Lions starter Gary Danielson began the season on the sidelines, recuperating from a knee surgery, so the starting job went to backup Joe Reed. In his first game, Reed went down. Seconds later, Komlo found himself taking snaps against the Buccaneers before 70,000 at Tampa Stadium.

He remained there for the rest of the year, starting 14 games in his rookie season and passing for 2,238 yards. It was a record for a Lions rookie QB, and just 333 yards shy of the all-time mark set by Jim Zorn. “Nothing scares him,” wrote Joe Falls in the Detroit Free Press. “Not those blitzing linebackers. Not those intricate pass patterns. He handles it all with the ease of a veteran, and some veterans never acquire the composure of this 23-year-old man.”

Komlo rolled through the entire year. “What do you say about the business that it takes three to four years to become a pro quarterback?” one reporter asked Komlo after he’d just led the Lions to a victory.

“What do you think about that business after today’s game?” he replied.

When Danielson came back to the Lions in 1980, Komlo returned to the backup role, and his relationship with head coach Monte Clark began to get testy. After Komlo started for an injured Danielson for two games in 1981, Clark told him he wouldn’t do so the following game. That set off a heated exchange between player and coach, which led to Komlo’s release the following season. While in Detroit, Komlo also threw a beer mug at a Lions teammate, hitting him in the head.

In 1982, the Atlanta Falcons picked up Komlo as the backup to Steve Bartkowski. He spent a season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year later, and finished his career with a brief stint for the Seattle Seahawks in 1985. Shortly thereafter, he was finished in the NFL.

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Few things in sports are as heartbreaking as the plight of the former athlete who hasn’t planned for life after a career ends. Komlo wasn’t one of them. Soon after he reached Detroit, he began diagramming a plan that would one day make him a very rich man. He was a regular at team dinners and networking groups, where he chatted among local business leaders. In the off-season, he got his Series 7 brokerage license and worked as account executive in the Michigan-based brokerage firm of Smith, Hague & Co.

Komlo, not long before his deathBy the time he retired from football, Komlo was five years into his marriage with Jennifer, the father of two girls, Kathryn and Courtney (daughters Christine and Caroline would arrive a few years later), and the owner of a home in Radnor. After a few years in financial services, he founded Bolton Capital Corporation, conducting estate planning for privately held business owners with large net worth.

“He was a really successful guy, and the same thing that made him succeed in sports made him successful in business,” says Louis Petriello, a partner with Petriello & Royal in Blue Bell, who also served as Bolton’s chief financial officer. “He never missed an opportunity to sell the company plan to someone.”

The most Komlo ever made in one season in the NFL was $120,000. By his mid-30s, he was clearing $100,000 a month in income from his work in the financial services industry. He’d moved his family from Radnor to a sprawling mansion in Bryn Mawr. He bought Jennifer a new Mercedes every other year. He gave her jewelry and paid for equestrian lessons for the girls. He purchased a beachfront house in North Palm Beach, Fla.

“We were happy for most of the 20 years we were together,” says Jennifer. “I loved him and I felt love from him in return.”

Although the extravagant lifestyle came with all the perks of excess, Jennifer claims it wasn’t important to her. “I grew up in that world, but the fact was that I hated country clubs, golf and the selectivity of everything associated with that lifestyle,” she says. “I thought he was giving me all of these things because he loved me, but they didn’t matter. I didn’t need to be adored. He kept telling me that having all of these lovely things—like the house in Florida—helped him in business. His clients were among the wealthiest business owners in the country, and we needed to look the part.”

There were rumors of affairs, but Jennifer was too busy raising her children to deal with them. Over time, though, she began to notice changes. Komlo became argumentative with her. His devotion to coaching his daughter’s youth teams trailed off. He began traveling on the weekends—for business, he told her.

Then there was the fraternity of local businessmen he associated with. They were partiers, backslappers, a men-only club. Komlo played basketball with them at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church; he took them to Philadelphia Country Club, where he was a member. They hung out at watering holes around the Main Line, and occasionally he hosted them at the home in North Palm Beach. “This crew is not your element,” Jennifer kept telling him. “You’re too hard-working, too much of a family man to waste your time with people like that.”

“To have this different element of his new pals was a red flag, but it was all part and parcel of a larger thing that had begun to happen,” says Jennifer. “There were facets of his personality that were starting to come out, glimpses of a person who could lie and manipulate and not be as forthright as most people are.”

She asked him if he would seek counseling or maybe undergo a psychological consultation. “He would always answer, ‘I don’t need to talk to anybody. You go if you feel the need to go,’” Jennifer says.

During this time, perhaps as a way of kick-starting their marriage, Komlo asked Jennifer to begin traveling with him. She said it was impossible. There were four daughters to raise. In the spring of 2000, she went to Hawaii for a vacation—not with Komlo, but with her friend Sandee Bartkowski, wife of the all-pro quarterback. The Bartkowskis’ son was moving into housing at the University of Hawaii, and Sandee, a photographer, had a wedding to shoot. In between, she and Jennifer would enjoy the beach together.

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One night, Jennifer called home and asked her daughter to put Komlo on the phone. Minutes later, she told Jennifer that he wouldn’t take the call. He had friends over. Jennifer described the incident later that evening, and Sandee revealed a story her husband had shared with her. Steve Bartkowski had heard from a mutual friend that Komlo was seen at a golf tournament. He wasn’t alone—there was a woman with him.

In May of 2000, Komlo gathered his wife and four daughters in the living room of their home in Bryn Mawr. He told them he was in love with Jennifer Winters, whom he’d met at a bar in Florida the year before. He said he was going to move in with her—that he’d purchased a home in Chester Springs for the two of them to share. He told his children he hoped they would someday be as close to Winters as they were with their own mother.

Months after he moved out, Jennifer filed for divorce, a proceeding that would take a full eight years to resolve. It was during this time that Komlo’s life began to slowly destroy itself.

Jennifer Winters’ beauty was more a presence than anything else. Her cascading blonde hair and hourglass figure turned heads, and when she and Komlo were together, they made a stunning couple. Within weeks of her arrival, the Main Line became their playground, and when they wanted to get away, they flew to Komlo’s home in North Palm Beach. They drank together; they did recreational drugs. In between, they argued.

On March 3, 2001, Komlo pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and reckless endangerment when he rammed a vehicle in front of him. The car, it turned out, belonged to Winters. According to a Chester County police report, Komlo collided with Winters following a chase that began as an argument at Baxter’s, a Paoli bar and restaurant. While there, Komlo “engaged in a confrontation with an unknown male subject by threatening the other male with a bottle.” The bartender then asked him to leave.

Komlo failed to attend his sentencing.

Three years later, Komlo was found guilty of two drunk-driving charges stemming from an incident in which he wrecked two cars in one night. According to a criminal complaint, on May 17, 2004, Winters claimed that she and Komlo became involved in a physical altercation at their Chester Springs home. When she called a friend, Komlo became “increasingly agitated” and forced Winters into her rented car, which he then began to drive erratically until it got stuck in a nearby field. Leaving Winters in the car, Komlo ran back to his home and, within minutes, crashed his Toyota 4-Runner near the scene of the previous accident, sustaining considerable front-end damage. Later, a breath sample given to state police revealed that Komlo had a blood alcohol level of .158—well above the legal limit of .10.

Again, Komlo missed his court appearance. Under Pennsylvania law, he would’ve faced a maximum sentence of 60 days on the convictions.

In May 2005, Chester County authorities issued an arrest warrant for Komlo when he failed to appear for a preliminary hearing on charges in an alleged assault on Winters on March 29 of that year. “As he got older, he had some very personal issues, but the biggest issue was that he had a very bad drinking problem,” says Petriello, his friend and attorney. “From the time I knew him in 1999 to the time he left [the country], his drinking got worse. In Jeff’s case, he went through a midlife crisis and took to drinking, and it caused predictable problems. If you look at the legal issues, they were all associated with drinking. If Jeff never drank a beer [during those years], he wouldn’t have had the problems he had.”

Komlo also had become a regular drug user. In April 2005, he was charged with possession charges in Pennsylvania. Police, responding to a call from Winters, found a powdery white substance rimming the bathroom toilet of the Chester Springs home, and a black glass vial in a shirt pocket of one of his shirts. A month later, a lab report revealed that the vial contained 1.2 grams of morphine.

Komlo was also implicated in a fraud scheme orchestrated by his friend and former UD teammate Peter Bistrian, who, previous to the investigation, had already spent two years in jail on charges he defrauded a South African company out of $1.4 million. In May 2005, Bistrian was indicted again, in a case that alleged Komlo had allowed him to move swindled funds into Komlo’s business account.

In March 2006, Lloyd’s of London sued Bistrian, Komlo and several associates, claiming that Komlo had part of the $1.4 million stolen by Bistrian. Komlo fully cooperated with authorities, and told them he believed Bistrian’s money had been obtained legally. In February 2007, Komlo agreed to pay $70,000 “without admitting any of the allegations.”

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Then there were the fires. In 2004, the waterfront home he owned in Florida burned to the ground. Komlo blamed Winters for the fire, but local arson authorities concluded that he staged it and tried to make it look like hurricane damage. He was later charged with arson, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. A year later, another one was issued on arson charges stemming from a suspicious fire at his Chester Springs home.

As Komlo continued to lose control, family and friends came to his aid. His brother, Drew, became one of his closest friends. His parents and sisters reached out to him, and so did his favorite coach. Of the several hundred players Tubby Raymond had coached, Komlo was one of the few with whom he shared a true bond. He loved the kid’s guts. There was something in Komlo’s eyes that seemed to say, “I’m your leader. Climb on my back.”

The two kept in close contact for years after Komlo’s time at UD. Raymond last saw Komlo on a golfing trip to Clearwater, Fla., in 2004. “That was when he told me what his problems were,” says Raymond. “I told him to go back home and clean it up—to face up to it. I kept encouraging him to turn himself in.”

On Mother’s Day 2005, Komlo drove to Maryland and spent the holiday with his family, heading to Drew’s home in Bronleyville and then to his sister Debbie’s home in Potomac. “He asked me if I could take him to the Dulles Airport,” says Drew. “I asked why.”

His older brother said nothing.

According to police reports, Komlo boarded a plane at Newark International Airport that evening. He arrived in London six hours later and took a connecting flight to Greece.

Soon after he arrived, Komlo met Malcolm Mendelsohn on an Athens train. A native of England, Mendelsohn was the founder of NHI Clinics, one of the world’s leading hair restoration centers. He hired Komlo to be the company’s Athens guide, a job that involved escorting NHI clients around the city, introducing them to local nightlife, hotels and restaurants, and showing them the ancient ruins.

While in Greece, Komlo called Kathleen Brady Shea, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which later published “For Former All-American, a Downward Spiral” on April 10, 2006. He told her he was upset about being included on the website for America’s Most Wanted, a show that profiles notorious fugitives. He believed his legal woes resulted from a vendetta, perhaps by a business associate. “I’m not a criminal, and I would like to get this resolved,” he told her. “I’m not above any law.”

In truth, Komlo may have thought he was. “He had a belief that if you knew the right people, you could get around the law. He felt that if he could talk to the people at the district attorney’s office, he could get around his cases,” Petriello says. “The fact that you’re a celebrity will not be helpful to you. It doesn’t work that way.”

Petriello was one of many who tried to convince Komlo to return to the United States. “I told him, ‘Look, Jeff, you need to face up to this. You have to come back,’” says Petriello. “He would never give me a straight answer—and to tell you the truth, my duty as an officer of the court is to tell him to come back. I told him 100 times, but he never did.”

In his sporadic phone calls to family and friends, Komlo never told them where he was. The albatross had been lifted. He was away from everyone—prosecutors, authorities, lawyers, his soon-to-be ex-wife. One time, he called his daughter Courtney. He said he couldn’t tell her where he was, but that it was a beautiful place.

“Dad, does that mean you’re never coming home?” she asked him.

“No, I don’t think so,” he answered.

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In the summer of 2005, Christine Komlo was visiting the Jersey Shore when she received a phone call from a close friend, who was calling from Greece. “She told me that she was just on a train from Athens, and her family had just seen my father riding on the same train,” Komlo’s daughter recalls. “She said she was positive it was him.”

Komlo did think about turning himself in. In 2005, after repeated calls to his friend’s cell phone, Tubby Raymond’s son, David, finally received a reply, which he kept on his answering machine for months. “David, it’s Jeff,” the message began. “Please tell your dad not to worry. I’m coming home to face the music.”

It never happened.

“He had daughters who hated him, a woman he loved whom he devastated, a woman he was afraid of, and authorities who were after him,” Raymond says. “He was probably thinking, ‘Why the hell should I go back? What’s there for me?’ I can see him weighing it all in his mind.”

On Saturday, March 14, the Komlos of Maryland were the first to receive a phone call from the United States Embassy in Greece, informing them that their son was the victim of a fatal drunk-driving accident. Early Sunday morning, the consul then called James Aldrich, Jennifer’s father, who arrived with her mother at the Komlo home on the Main Line at 9 a.m.

Jennifer Komlo has moved her family four times since her separation from Jeff almost 10 years ago. For the past few years, she’s lived with her four daughters in a comfortable house in Gladwyne. She works in the office of a plastic surgeon in Bala Cynwyd.

Jennifer admits that she’s not yet been able to move on from the events of the last 10 years—that she’s put her personal happiness on hold. The most joy she feels these days comes from her children’s accomplishments. Kathryn, 26, graduated from Villanova University, worked in the financial industry for a few years, and is now back at Villanova in an accelerated nursing program. Courtney, 23, also got a degree from Villanova and works for an event planning firm in Manhattan. Christine, 21, is beginning her senior year at the University of Delaware, and Caroline, a 20-year-old junior at UD, is in the medical scholars program.

Jennifer, meanwhile, has hung onto a dream that will not go away—one where Komlo comes home, faces his demons, serves his time and reconciles with his daughters. “I really do believe that I, subconsciously, had a hope or a fantasy that it would happen,” she says. “I still miss the life we built together and the family we once had. I had so much anger toward him when he was gone, and I’ve been able to let that go now. He was a good father and a good husband for a very long time. Then I wake up and realize … And now it almost feels like it is someone else’s dream.”

There’s a large plaque that hangs in the Delaware Field House. On it are the names of the UD athletes who’ve achieved All-American status. Under the year 1978, Jeff Komlo’s name is listed twice.

When his daughter Christine was a midfielder on the UD lacrosse team, she passed the plaque often. As she sits in a Bryn Mawr coffee shop, weeks away from returning to the Newark campus for her senior year, there’s a hardness in her voice that defies her soft features.

“This is not a story you can tell in five minutes,” she says. “You see, my father was once my role model. We did everything together. He was my coach on all my youth teams. He gave my sisters and me everything. When I take the time to think about what happened to him, it’s humbling, but I think I’ve become a stronger person—a more independent person—because of what happened. My father’s passing brought the biggest sense of closure to our family, and we are stronger now without him.”

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In Rockville, Md., the Komlo patriarch spends his days training thoroughbreds on the 12 acres behind his home The horses mostly run out of local tracks like Laurel and Pimlico. Although slowed somewhat by an old football injury, there’s still a spring in his step, and he has the attentive focus of a man 40 years his junior.

The elder Komlos seem to thrive on conversation—about the horses, Maryland football, family plans. Theirs is a warm home—one made so by its occupants, who are inseparable.

When William Komlo speaks about his oldest son, however, his sentences arrive slowly, punctuated by great silences. He wants to travel to Greece. He would like to come back with all of Jeff’s personal effects, which are currently with the U.S. embassy there. He’d also like to speak with Mendelsohn, his son’s last employer, and travel the same streets Jeff did. It kills him that he doesn’t know more. “The pain is still there, and the unanswered questions remain,” he says.

“There are a lot of questions about why he left,” says Komlo’s brother, Drew. “It’s still a mystery. But there’s no way he got up and just walked away from his family. There’s just no way he did that. If a guy has that kind of desire for his football career and then his business … He didn’t just sit down and decide that his marriage was over. He never just quit. I wish his kids knew that.”

There was a memorial service for Komlo at Rockville’s St. Francis Catholic Church on April 1. Soon after, he was cremated, and his ashes are kept in an urn that rests atop a circular glass table in the Maryland home. Beneath the urn and rimming the table are photographs of Komlo at various stages of his football career—at UD, and with the Lions, the Falcons and Tampa Bay. In one photo, the quarterback appears to be on the sidelines, staring intently at something off to his right. Is it a play unfolding? An opportunity? We’ll never know.

In the end, it’s easy to blame this tragedy on Komlo himself. But perhaps it’s really the fault of velocity. For those who choose to live their life at maximum speed, there’s no guardrails to protect the body and soothe the mind. Komlo’s life was all throttle and torque, and in between were the people who loved him—and who now mourn his death.

William Komlo enters the family room and points to the urn on the table. “Here is my boy,” he says. “I talk to him every day. I talk to him every time I come in this room. It’s almost like he’s here.”

The father taps the top of the urn, as if to let his oldest son know he’s there.

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