Wrestling star Del "The Patriot" Wilkes has died at age 59 from a heart attack, according to reports.
News of his death was confirmed by WWE Thursday on Twitter.
"WWE is saddened to learn that Del Wilkes, known to WWE fans as The Patriot, has passed away at the age of 59," the company wrote in a post. "WWE extends its condolences to Wilkes’ family and friends."
A close family friend, Allen Wright Adkins, also shared the news on social media.
"At the request of his family, it's with a devastated heart that I let you know Heaven gained one of the most special men I've ever had the honor to know today," Adkins wrote in a Facebook post. "Del Wilkes, I've loved you for 40 years and always will. Rest in peace, my dear friend...you'll be missed more than you could ever know."
Before pursuing wrestling, Wilkes carved a name for himself as a football player at the University of South Carolina, where he was voted All-American, according to a statement on WWE's website. He later began competing in the ring and joined WWE as "The Patriot" in 1997.
"A Superstar quickly on the rise, The Patriot proudly donned the red, white and blue of America in the midst of a rivalry with The Hart Foundation, leading to a memorable match against Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at "In Your House: Ground Zero" just two months after his WWE debut," WWE's statement read.
Wilkes retired from wrestling in the late 1990s due to a tricep injury and went on to work as a car salesman in Columbia, S.C., according to the Post and Courier.
Pastor Andy McDaniel, who hosted a podcast with Wilkes, honored the star in a statement to the outlet.
"Del Wilkes would become a name that those in college football knew quite well. He would make his name familiar in the world of pro wrestling as well," he said. "However, regardless of the accolades or fame he may have achieved, to me, he was best known as a friend. Del overcame his struggles in this life and became an inspiration to many. Our loss is Heaven’s gain."
Although a successful wrestler, Wilkes' career was tainted by addiction and domestic assault. He developed a dependency on prescription pills during his professional wrestling career, which lasted from 1988 to 1997, and as a result, was reportedly arrested 20 times between 1998 and 2007.
In 1999, he pled guilty to a charge of domestic assault, and in 2002 he served nine months in an Aiken prison facility after being charged for fraudulently obtaining prescription painkillers, Post and Courier noted.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.