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LeAnne Novacek: RIP

Jay Novacek was always a unique dude. Okay, I'll say it, he was a little weird.

During my time covering the Dallas Cowboys for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he was always friendly, yet sorta edgy. For example, one year on the eve of training camp at St. Edward's University in Austin Novacek and good buddy Troy Aikman got buzzed, almost military haircuts.

Upon seeing Novacek in Austin I commented, "Nice haircut, private."

Novacek: "What? Haircut? I didn't get a haircut."

And back and forth it went. Not for the length of the conversation. Or a day. Or a week. Or training camp. But for a year. A full football season.

Couple years later he taped a cup to his locker and started charging a quarter for interviews. Some folks - former Dallas Times Herald reporter Susie Woodhams comes to mind - actually paid.

Novacek, who was Jason Witten before Jason Witten, was always gracious. Usually accessible. I went to a couple of social events with he and Aikman. (The quarterback repeatedly said that if he had a son, he wanted him to grow up to be just like Jay Novacek.) And you know what? He never admitted to or even acknowledged getting a haircut. To this day - without as much a wry smile, much less a laugh - he'll sometimes wedge "Did you get a haircut?" into our conversation.

Just quirky, ya know?

In the past years Jay had really relaxed and seemingly started trusting people. He loved riding horses with his wife and even broadened his horizons on sand volleyball courts. At training camp in San Antonio last summer we had a long talk about the good ol' days. And just a couple months ago I watched him - dressed in jeans and boots and signature cowboy hat - running routes and catching passes from Roger Staubach at Texas Stadium.

I met his wife, LeAnne, on a couple of occasions.

This morning, like the Cowboys' family, I'm shocked that she's dead. Apparent suicide.

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LeAnne was found dead at her mother's home in Burleson Monday. Cause of death is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Novaceks, who have a daughter, have been active in several charitable activities in the community, including fundraising for the Children's Advocacy Center of Johnson County.

This story touches me - no, smacks me - on several levels. First, for my relationship with Jay. Obviously, prayers and sympathies and unspeakable sorrow.

Secondly, I've dealt with suicides twice in the last two years. A friend of mine - secretly drowning in financial debt and marital problems - shot himself about a year ago. And a family member attempted - but thankfully failed - to kill himself in Johnson County, not far from where LeAnne's life ended.

I know 99 percent of the time I'm snarky and smart-assy in my lil' corner of the blogosphere, but if you've ever wondered about a friend or family member's mental state, today would be a great day for a call ... or a hug ... or something ...

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