NFL Veteran Hayden, 33, Dies in Tragic Crash
The two-vehicle crash occurred around 2 AM Saturday when a speeding Chrysler 300 allegedly ran a red light and violently slammed into an SUV at an intersection in central Houston, according to police.
Hayden, 33, was pronounced dead at the scene along with two other occupants of the SUV. Three more victims, including the Chrysler driver, died later at the hospital.
Hayden was a star defensive back at the University of Houston before being drafted in the NFL’s first round in 2013. He most recently played for the Washington Commanders in 2021.
Multiple University of Houston Football Alumni Perish
In addition to Hayden, two other former Houston Cougars football players died in the devastating crash – cornerback Zach McMillian and lineman Ralph Oragwu.
The University of Houston athletics department mourned the “tragic passing” of the three alumni, calling them individuals who made an “indelible impact on each life they touched.”
Former Cougars player Jeffery Lewis was also injured in the collision and remains hospitalized.
Speeding Chrysler Allegedly Ran Red Light
According to police, the fatal crash occurred when the Chrysler sped through a red light and T-boned the SUV carrying Hayden and his companions.
Officers described the Chrysler as traveling at an extremely high rate of speed at the time of impact around 2 AM Saturday morning.
The force of the collision killed four people instantly, including Hayden. Two more victims succumbed to injuries at the hospital.
Hayden Enjoyed 7-Year NFL Career
Drafted 12th overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2013, Hayden overcame a near-fatal heart injury in college to embark on a seven-year NFL career.
The Houston native played for the Raiders, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars as a defensive back and cornerback. His final season was with the Washington Commanders in 2021.
“D.J.’s courage, perseverance and dedication to his teammates will be fondly remembered by everyone who knew him,” the Raiders said in a statement. “The prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with D.J.’s loved ones.”
Survived Major Heart Surgery in College
In 2012 while playing for Houston, Hayden nearly lost his life after a collision at practice tore the inferior vena cava vein leading to his heart. He was rushed into immediate surgery and given just a 5-10% chance of survival at the time.
Remarkably, Hayden was discharged within a week of the life-saving operation and eventually resumed his football career. He was drafted by the Raiders after overcoming the near-fatal injury, which is extremely rare in the sport.
High-Speed Crash Remains Under Investigation
The deadly crash remains under active investigation by the Houston Police Department.
Officers said they have interviewed a surviving male passenger from the SUV and are working to identify the driver.
Police continue to piece together how the tragic collision occurred and whether speed, alcohol or other factors played a role.
Community Mourns Tragic Loss of Local Sports Stars
The horrific crash has sent shockwaves across the Houston community and University of Houston, where Hayden and two others killed starred as college athletes just over a decade ago.
Many paid tribute to the former players’ infectious spirit and the lasting mark they made on teammates and coaches during their promising football careers cut far too short.
Houston will feel the painful absence of several local sports legends, active members of the community and beloved family members. The city prays for their families as they mourn this unexpected tragedy.
The deadly wreck serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of safety on the road. As Houston processes this grief, the community will unite to honor the lives and memory of those lost.