CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Chris Henry was no stranger to trouble.
His multiple arrests during a five-year NFL career were among the factors prompting the league to toughen its personal-conduct policy.
But his Cincinnati Bengals teammates said the receiver was determined to leave behind his troubled past and move toward a bright future.
Tragically, his efforts were cut short when he died early yesterday from injuries in what police said was a domestic dispute with his fiancee.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said the 26-year-old Henry died less than 18 hours after he fell off of the back of a pickup truck on a curved residential street about eight miles northwest of downtown Charlotte.
The cause of death was not immediately released.
Henry was away from the Bengals after suffering a season-ending broken forearm in a game last month.
"We knew him in a different way than his public persona," Bengals owner Mike Brown said. "He had worked through the troubles in his life and had finally seemingly reached the point where everything was going to blossom. And he was going to have the future we all wanted for him. It's painful to us."
Bengals receiver Andre Caldwell said, "People thought he was a bad guy, but he had a big heart."
Police provided few details about the investigation, other than that homicide detectives had been assigned.
Two 911 tapes released yesterday provided clues. The first was from an unidentified woman who said she was following a yellow pickup truck.
"It's got a black man on it with no shirt on, and he's got his arm in a cast and black pants on," she told a dispatcher. "He's beating on the back of this truck window. . . . I don't know if he's trying to break in or something. It just looks crazy. It's a girl driving it."
Just over a minute later, an unidentified man called 911 and said he saw a man "laying in the road" and "definitely unconscious."
Police spokeswoman Rosalyn Harrington would not say if the woman, whom police would not identify, was at the scene when police arrived.
Henry and his 25-year-old fiancee, Loleini Tonga, were raising three children.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, "It's a very difficult thing with his loss and a young life and one that won't ever get to reach its full potential."
Police said the domestic dispute began Wednesday at a home about a half-mile away from where Henry was found. He had jumped into the bed of the pickup as his fiancee was driving away from the residence, and at some point, he "came out of the back of the vehicle," authorities said.
The Bengals will wear a helmet sticker to remember Henry on Sunday at their game in San Diego. Commissioner Roger Goodell asked clubs to observe a moment of silence before each game.
"He was doing everything right," receiver Chad Ochocinco said.
Henry grew up south of New Orleans in the suburban community of Belle Chasse and dreamed of playing in the NFL. But after he was ejected from a game and suspended for another at West Virginia, the Bengals were the only team to bring him in for a predraft visit in 2005.
Selected in the third round, Henry played a vital role as Cincinnati reached the playoffs in his rookie season. But in the final month of the season, he was arrested for marijuana possession.
It was the first of five arrests, and Henry and former Tennessee cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones became known as the league's two most trouble-bound players. Goodell suspended both in 2007 - Jones for a full season, Henry for half of it - as part of a toughening of the league's conduct policy.
After Henry was arrested for a fifth time following that season on an assault charge, Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard called Henry "a one-man crime wave." He was released by the Bengals the same day. But Brown gave Henry a second chance, re-signing him before last season.