Marion Barber III, a star running back for the Gophers from 2001-04 who later played six seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, has died, the NFL team announced Wednesday.

A Frisco (Texas) Police spokesperson said officers responded to a welfare concern on Wednesday at an apartment believed to be leased by Barber. Frisco Police, along with the Collin County Medical Examiner's Office are investigating an unattended death at the location. The spokesperson did not list a cause of death.

Barber, who would have turned 39 on June 10, played for the Cowboys from 2005-10 and the Chicago Bears in 2011 before living in the Dallas area after his NFL career.

Former Gophers coach Glen Mason, who recruited and coached Barber with Minnesota, said he was devastated by Wednesday's news.

"Marion Barber was a great running back for the University of Minnesota. Everybody saw that. … I saw it firsthand every day," Mason said. "When I heard this, I couldn't get it out of my mind what a great kid he was. He always had a smile on his face. Everything was upbeat, everything was positive. He played for me for four years and never gave me a problem — not one. … He was a delight to be around."

Former Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito, who was a roommate of Barber's during the 2004 season, echoed Mason's sentiments.

"He was such a good person," Cupito said. "Forget football — he was awesome at football — but he was such a good guy. Hilarious, fun to be around, everybody loved him."

Barber ranks fifth in Gophers career rushing with 3,276 yards and second with 35 rushing touchdowns. He twice surpassed 1,000 yards in a season — amassing 1,269 in 2004 and 1,196 in 2003. In both those years, he teamed with fellow running back Laurence Maroney to give the Gophers a duo with more than 1,000 yards each.

"He was very close with Laurence Maroney," Mason said. "… They were characters. To be around them, it was a laugh a minute."

One of Barber's best games came against Michigan in 2003, when he rushed 21 times for 197 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 46 yards as the Gophers built a 28-7 lead only to fall 38-35.

Barber's final game for the Gophers was the 2004 Music City Bowl, in which he earned Most Valuable Player honors after rushing 37 times for 187 yards and a touchdown in a 20-16 victory over Alabama. He gave up his senior year to declare for the NFL draft.

"I was trying to talk him into coming back: 'One more year,'" Cupito said. "But after that game against Alabama, he was done."

Barber, who played at Wayzata High School, was part of a family of Gophers standouts that includes his father, Marion Jr., a star running back from 1977-80; Dominique, a defensive back from 2004-07; and Thomas, a linebacker from 2016-19 who now is a graduate assistant for the Gophers.

"Marion was one of the best to ever play at Minnesota, and he is a big reason why many people are Gopher fans today," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. "The Barber family is synonymous with Gopher football, and we are absolutely heartbroken for Marion Jr., Karen, Dom, Thomas and the entire family. We will do everything we can to support the family during this difficult and tragic time.''

Barber, a fourth-round NFL draft pick by Dallas in 2005, was known for his hard-hitting style as a runner. He rushed for 4,780 yards and 53 touchdowns in his NFL career, including 4,358 yards and 47 TDs with the Cowboys. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2007 for the Cowboys when he rushed for a career-best 975 yards with 10 TDs and caught 44 passes for 282 yards and two TDs. He retired following the 2011 season in which he rushed for 422 yards and six TDs with the Bears.

"We are heartbroken by the tragic death of Marion Barber III," the Cowboys said in a statement. "Marion was an old-school, hard-nosed football player who ran with the will to win every down. He had a passion for the game and love for his coaches and teammates. Our hearts go out to Marion's family and friends during this difficult time."

Barber fell on tough times following his NFL career. In 2014, he was detained and taken for a mental health evaluation after police were called to the suburb of Mansfield, Texas. In two separate incidents in 2018, he faced charges of criminal mischief after damaging cars in Frisco. On April 22, he pleaded no contest to the charges in Denton County court and was sentenced to 12 months probation and 60 hours of community service.

Mason said Barber reached out to have dinner while visiting the Twin Cities a couple of years ago and talked about the fun times they had reminiscing. Wednesday, the coach took the news hard.

"I really do feel like I've lost a family member," Mason said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Dominique Barber.