Black Football Star's Mysterious Death in Deep South Examined in New Podcast Series

“Return Man” launches first season of audio documentary anthology "Longshot," from McClatchy and iHeartMedia, exploring the intersection of sports and social change

Listen to the official trailer now

New York and Rock Hill, S.C. – January 19, 2021 – iHeartMedia, the No. 1 podcast publisher globally, and McClatchy, a leading local media company with 30 newsrooms across the country, today announced “Return Man,” a new narrative podcast investigating the mysterious death of pro-football player Jim Duncan. The first episode of the eight-part series will be available January 26, distributed through the iHeartPodcast Network and available on iHeartRadio and wherever listeners get their favorite podcasts. The remaining seven episodes will post weekly each Tuesday beginning February 2. Listen to the trailer now.

Duncan was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1968, nearly two decades before the team moved to Indianapolis. According to the official account of his death, he entered the Lancaster, S.C., police station on the morning of October 20, 1972. Police said the 26-year-old Duncan walked up behind a lieutenant, and without saying a word ripped the officer’s revolver from his holster, stepped back, and shot himself in the head. For half a century, his family and an entire community have searched for answers.

Duncan was an NFL star as a kickoff return man and defensive back for the Baltimore Colts. He led the league in kickoff return yards in 1970, and that same season helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl title. Two years later, authorities say, Duncan died by suicide inside the police station of his small hometown of Lancaster, S.C. “Return Man” is based on the reporting of Bret McCormick, former sports editor for McClatchy’s Rock Hill, S.C. news outlet, The Herald. In addition to the podcast, The Herald has created a seven-part text series and short documentary video about the case.

“Even though he died nearly 50 years ago, Duncan’s death and the events that followed remain relevant in light of current events,” said McCormick, who also narrates all eight half-hour episodes. “Officials seemed to wall off any hope of finding out exactly what happened on that day. And for decades, the remarkable life and perplexing death of Lancaster’s only Super Bowl champion has been almost completely erased from the town’s history.”

And, there was never any charge of wrongdoing.

“This investigation represents a significant investment for our small but ambitious newsroom, while also demonstrating the power and importance of local journalism,” said Cliff Harrington, Executive Editor of The Herald. “Bret’s dogged determination and perseverance are emblematic of the way The Herald has proudly served our community for almost 150 years.”

“The depth of reporting presented in “Return Man” is what makes this podcast and LONGSHOT “Longshot” series so powerful,” said Kristin Roberts, McClatchy’s Senior Vice President, News. “The listener hears directly from Mr. Duncan’s family, his coaches and his neighbors. We hear their voices tell the stories of his life. And through them, we take a journey that grapples with the great unanswered questions surrounding the death of a man who was both local hero and a national athlete. We look forward to working with iHeartMedia to bring this important local story to listeners nationwide.”

“This is an exciting collaboration with one of the country’s premier local media companies that has a rich history of outstanding narrative journalism,” said Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. “This is one of the things that podcasting does best: longform storytelling around layered, complex subject matters that may have fallen off our collective radar. We are so excited to collaborate with McClatchy to bring ‘Return Man’ and the ‘Longshot’ anthology to podcast listeners across the country.”

“Return Man” is the first season in a new anthology of character-driven audio documentaries co-produced by iHeartRadio and McClatchy, called “Longshot.” The series focuses exclusively on the intersection of sports and social change.

Listeners can visit to download the iHeartRadio app and listen to “Return Man” on their favorite devices. Plus, fans can follow “Return Man” to be alerted when new episodes post.

About iHeartMedia

iHeartMedia (NASDAQ: IHRT) is the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month – and with its quarter of a billion monthly listeners, has a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S. The company’s leadership position in audio extends across multiple platforms, including more than 850 live broadcast stations in over 160 markets nationwide; through its iHeartRadio digital service available across more than 250 platforms and 2,000 devices; through its influencers; social; branded iconic live music events; other digital products and newsletters; and podcasts as the #1 commercial podcast publisher. iHeartMedia also leads the audio industry in analytics, targeting and attribution for its marketing partners with its SmartAudio product, using data from its massive consumer base. Visit for more company information.

About McClatchy

We help people and communities thrive. Through our deeply-rooted commitment to the role of local journalism, McClatchy is a catalyst for informed engagement, greater understanding, and deeper community connections. We ensure delivery of news and information essential to enhancing individual lives and improving the 30 distinct communities that are home to our journalists and iconic brands, including the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh) News and Observer, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We extend our unique local and regional reach, relevance and resources to our advertising partners through fully-integrated marketing solutions. Let’s rise together.About The HeraldThe Herald is the leading source of local news for York, Lancaster and Chester counties in South Carolina. The Herald dates back more than 100 years and has been based in Rock Hill all that time. It started in 1872 as a weekly newspaper called The Lantern. The Herald became part of McClatchy in 1990. The consistent focus of the publication has been local news as it serves the fast-growing city of Rock Hill and surrounding cities of Fort Mill, Indian Land, Lancaster and Chester. Subscribers today can support The Herald’s six-day-a-week print edition, or its online publication at


Jenn Powers

Jeanne Segal