Houston defensive back D.J. Hayden (2) greets fans after his game against UTEP, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Robertson Stadium in Houston. Houston won 45-35. ( Nick de la Torre / Houston Chronicle )
Photo by Nick de la Torre/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Former Houston Football Star Killed in Car Crash at 33 Years Old

Devastating news has struck the Houston community this Saturday morning, as former University of Houston Cougars football star D.J. Hayden was killed in a car crash along with five others. Hayden's former Cougar teammate Zachary McMillian was also among those who passed away following a 2:00 AM collision in Houston. Hayden was 33 years old, McMillan 32.

Both played for Houston on the 2011 and 2012 teams, coached by Kevin Sumlin and Tony Levine respectively. Hayden famously survived a near fatal injury during practice as a member of the Cougars after an incredibly violent collision in practice. He was rushed to hospital after the hit where doctors found he had torn his inferior vena cava, a major artery that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.

Doctors said he was lucky to be alive and to have arrived at the hospital so quickly. Hayden recovered in the hospital as he was told his football playing days were probably over, but he had other plans. Getting back on the field was his goal and he pursued it with complete focus.

Hayden recovered, and starred in the 2012 campaign, going on to be the second cornerback selected in the 2013 NFL draft. The Raiders selected him with the twelfth overall pick and he played for four seasons in Oakland, before moving on to stops with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.

He had over 300 tackles in his eight-year NFL career and he retired after last having been a member of the Washington Commanders in 2021.

Hayden was a Houston native and attended Elkins High School in nearby Missouri City, TX. He had stayed closely connected to the football team and local community throughout his time in the NFL and after retirement. Fans state and nationwide will mourn the loss of a great man who had a true passion for Houston and the game of football.

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