Ex-NFL Player, Who Cheated Death Once, Killed in Crash

DJ Hayden is among 6 people killed in car collision in Houston
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 12, 2023 6:54 AM CST
6 Dead in Houston Crash, Including Former NFL Player
The traffic cones mark off the scene of a car accident Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in downtown Houston, Texas.   (Raquel Natalicchio/Houston Chronicle via AP)/Houston Chronicle via AP)

A crash at a red light killed six people in downtown Houston early Saturday, including former NFL cornerback DJ Hayden and two of his former teammates at the University of Houston, per the AP and the Houston Chronicle. The two-vehicle crash occurred about 2am when a Chrysler 300, apparently "going very fast, high velocity," ran the red light and collided with an Acura SUV, said Houston Police Assistant Chief Megan Howard, per the AP. Hayden and ex-teammates Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu were in the SUV and were killed. The unidentified driver of the Chrysler also was killed, as was a pedestrian who appeared to be homeless. Police have not yet sorted out all the details, including who was driving the SUV.

A male passenger from the SUV—another former UH player, Jeffery Lewis—survived, and police were able to interview him. A female passenger from one of the vehicles was in critical condition. Hayden, 33, was born in Houston and went on to star at UH. While with the team as a senior in 2012, Hayden survived and later recovered from a near-death tear to a major vein by his heart after he and a teammate collided during practice, requiring emergency surgery. Quick action by trainers and medical personnel was credited with saving his life from an injury that was nearly always fatal at the time, per the Chronicle. He became a first-round NFL draft pick in 2013, chosen 12th overall, and played in eight seasons through 2020 for the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, and Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Our family is heartbroken over the passing of Zach McMillian, DJ Hayden & Ralph Oragwu," former UH football coach Tony Levine posted on X. "Such truly amazing young men. I recruited Zach, watched DJ coach a HS football game a few weeks ago, and Ralph was a Leader at our restaurant. Words cannot describe how much they'll be missed." The Raiders also paid tribute: "D.J.'s courage, perseverance and dedication to his teammates will be fondly remembered by everyone who knew him," the team wrote on X. "The prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with D.J.'s loved ones at this time." (More Houston stories.)

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