MOORESVILLE, NC (AP) — The father of the Tennessee Titans cornerback Caleb Farley died overnight in an explosion that destroyed the NFL player’s home in North Carolina and injured another person, authorities said Tuesday.
Robert M. Farley, 61, was found dead in the rubble of the Mooresville home Tuesday morning, said Kent Greene, director of the Iredell County Fire Department and Emergency Management.
First responders arrived at the home just minutes after midnight Tuesday and found 25-year-old Christian Rogers exiting the collapsed building, Greene said. Rogers, described by Greene as a family friend, was taken to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte with a concussion. He’s awake and alert, Greene said, but hasn’t been released yet.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but Greene said the gas must have accumulated over a long period of time and likely found its way to an ignition source. The blast, which local authorities believe was an accident, occurred in a bedroom and did not damage surrounding homes.
The home sits on a large lot near Lake Norman, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of Charlotte. County real estate records list the home’s taxable value as nearly $2 million.
Insulation materials were hanging from the trees in the front yard Tuesday, and there was a king-size mattress and a broken coffee mug that said “Virginia Tech Dad” on the lawn. Debris and window frames were ejected at least 45 meters from the blast.
“There may be no one alive inside — that was my first thought,” Greene said. “And when I found out that someone actually walked out, I was amazed. That was a 6,300-square-foot house and there’s nothing left except maybe part of the garage.”
The homeowner listed in the property records is Caleb Farley, who was born and raised in nearby Maiden. He wasn’t there at the time of the blast but was on site Tuesday, Greene said.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel told the team about the loss of Caleb Farley during a practice session in Nashville, and the players knelt in what appeared to be a prayer. Vrabel said the team will do everything they can to support him.
“The most important thing is to focus on him and … everything else is pretty trivial,” Vrabel said after practice.
Caleb Farley, the No. 22 of the overall selection the 2021 draft was put on injury reserve last November with an earlier issue. He has played 12 games in his first two seasons and is currently ruled physically unfit as the Titans wrap up training camp this week.
In college, the 6-foot-1, 197-pound cornerback became the first high-profile player to pull out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. He lost his mother to cancer in 2018 and was unwilling to put another loved one at risk while he was playing at Virginia Tech.
Titans Safety Kevin Byard lost his own mother in June 2022. He said he told Caleb Farley before he returned to North Carolina to stand up for his faith.
“I know he lost his mother when he was young too, so he endured a lot of adversity as well,” Byard said. “So it’s just very tragic. And you know, as a team and as a brother, all we and I can do is try to be there for him.”
Laura Wild, who lives two houses down from the site of the blast, said she heard a loud bang around midnight but did not go outside to check what happened. She said she was exhausted from being up all night the night before watching her son’s newborn baby.
“When it happened, I thought, ‘What was that?’ My husband said, ‘I think it’s just thunder.'” Wild said. “We didn’t come out to investigate because the power went out in our house. We walked around the house and the house was fine. We went to bed. But when we came out in the morning it was pretty bad. Just awful.”
Wild said she doesn’t know the Farleys well.
Greene said it’s not yet clear who might be responsible for the blast, as multiple agencies are investigating the cause. The gas meter, which was used to measure the volume of fuel gases flowing into surrounding homes, has been confiscated and currently poses no danger to others in the community, he said.
Dominion Energy spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris said in an email that the utility was among the first to the scene and was working with investigators.
Walker reported from Nashville, Tennessee, and Schoenbaum reported from Raleigh.