Remembering Gavin Escobar: From Dallas Cowboys to Firefighter

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NFL player and firefighter Gavin Escobar was found dead last week after falling while rock climbing. At only 31 years old, Escobar led a selfless and remarkable life. Here is what we know about the football player, husband, father, and firefighter.

Gavin Escobar’s Early Life

Gavin Louis Escobar was born on February 3, 1991, in New York, New York. He attended Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Ranch Santa Margarita, California. While in high school, Escobar played football and basketball. At nearly 6’6” and 254 lbs, Escobar could run the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds. Regarded as a two-star recruit, Escobar went on to play for San Diego State University while on a football scholarship.

As a college freshman, Escobar was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was subsequently redshirted with the San Diego Aztecs until his cancer went into remission. Escobar played for the University from 2009 to 2012. Registering 17 touchdowns over his college career, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys during the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL draft.

NFL Career

Gavin Escobar played for the Cowboys from 2013 to 2016. As a tight end, he played 62 games and made 8 touchdowns for the Cowboys. In 2015, he tore his Achilles tendon during a game against the New York Jets, therefore ending his season early. After making a swift recovery, he returned for the 2016 season, but that would be his final one with the Cowboys.

In March of 2017, Escobar signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, but that contract ended in September of the same year. Instead, he went on to play very briefly for the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and eventually the San Diego Fleet (Alliance of American Football). The AAF closed its operations soon after he joined, but he did manage to catch 14 passes for a total of 142 yards during his time with the San Diego Fleet.

“Forever in our hearts,” tweeted the Dallas Cowboys.

Life After Football

Following his exit from the football world, Escobar became a public servant. He joined the Long Beach Fire Department in February of 2022. His friend, former teammate, and roommate at SDSU, Jake Bernards, praised Escobar’s career shift. “It goes to show what kind of guy he was — very selfless,” Bernards said to KTLA.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the off-duty death of Long Beach Firefighter Gavin Escobar,” tweeted Long Beach Fire. “Hired on February 5, 2022, Firefighter Escobar was assigned to Fire Station 3 on B-shift.”

Escobar left behind his wife, Sarah, and two children.

“Absolute bright light in anyone’s life,” Bernards said. “You truly can’t be unhappy around him. We liked to joke he’s just a big goofball and an even better dad. He really focused all his efforts on those two girls. I think his legacy lies in every single person that he’s touched.”

The Tahquitz Rock Accident

On the day of his death, September 28, Escobar and his friend, documentarian Chelsea Walsh, were scaling Tahquitz Rock near Idyllwild, California.

Walsh filmed for the PBS series Roadtrip Nation, which brought young people around Colorado while traveling in an RV. They would meet and interview people about their careers, as a way to inspire youth to pursue their dreams and career opportunities. She had also just finished a documentary called Light, which focused on climbers who had battled eating disorders.

Caroline Treadway, the producer for Light, described Walsh as a woman who stood out in her craft. “She knew more than a lot of guys out there with cameras,” she told Climbing Magazine. “No obstacle was too great for her. I felt like she could make any film a success, and she made me believe I could do things I didn’t believe I could do. She even got my mom to open up on camera, and no one does that. She brought magic to everything she did.”

Not many details are presently available pertaining to how Escobar and Walsh died. The CAL Fire/ Riverside County Fire Department released the following information on Twitter:

“Inaccessible Rescue:rpt@12:25 Tahquitz Rock, Idyllwild. Report of two injured rock climbers. Firefighters are attempting to hike to the victim’s location. Mountain Rescue Team requested. #HumberIC

Just over two hours later, an update was tweeted: “Rescuers made access to the location of the victims, both victims perished at the scene. The incident has been turned over to @RSO.”

What Happened to Gavin Escobar and Chelsea Walsh?

Earlier in the day, there was reportedly rain and thunder in the Tahquitz Rock area. It’s unclear if inclement weather could have been a factor in the deaths of Escobar and Walsh. According to reports, they were spotted by two other hikers, who called 911. When rescue personnel arrived on the scene around 1:20 p.m., Escobar and Walsh were already dead.

Jake Bernards also told KTLA that witnesses think a rock may have fallen. Rocks and sediment can be dangerously loosened and more likely to fall following a wet weather event.

“There have been witnesses that have claimed that they saw the two free fall with a large object,” he said. “Conjecture that a rock might’ve fallen with them.”  

Bernards has accordingly set up a GoFundMe for Gavin Escobar’s family, which can be found here. A GoFundMe for Chelsea Walsh’s significant other, Craig Polesovsky, can be found here.

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