9:53 AM PT -- Cops now say it appears Caldwell was targeted -- it was not a random act.
"Upon arrival, officers located an adult male victim of a gunshot wound in the front yard of a residence. Officers immediately began providing life-saving measures," cops say.
"Tampa Fire Rescue arrived and transported the victim to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced deceased."
"This does not appear to be a random act. However, it is very early in the investigation and detectives are working to develop leads in the case. Updates will be provided as they become available."
Investigators are gathering information and asking the public for help -- saying anyone with info should contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.
Reche Caldwell -- a former NFL wide receiver who played with Tom Brady -- was shot and killed in Tampa on Saturday, his mother confirms to TMZ Sports.
He was only 41.
Caldwell's mother tells us ... Reche -- real name Donald Caldwell -- was getting ready to take his girlfriend out on a date when he went back inside his home to grab a jacket.
Reche's GF says the former player was "ambushed" by a "couple of people" who jumped out of bushes trying to rob him.
We're told Reche was shot in the leg and chest -- and someone called 911.
Unfortunately, the injuries were so severe, Caldwell's mother tells us Reche died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
"He was a good person who smiled all of the time," Deborah Caldwell tells us.
"He tried to help everyone he could. He was the type of guy who would take his shirt off his back and give it to you."
Caldwell was a 2nd round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft after a stellar career at the University of Florida.
He played 6 years in the NFL for the Chargers, Patriots and Redskins -- and was a part of the New England team that lost to the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship.
We've reached out to authorities to find out of any arrests have been made. So far, no word back.
The New England Patriots have issued a statement saying, "We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Patriot Reche Caldwell."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Originally published -- 7:07 AM PT