Ex-Raiders first-round pick CB D.J. Hayden killed in car crash

Two of Hayden's former University of Houston teammates were also killed in the wreck

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23:  Cornerback DJ Hayden #25 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after a Denver Broncos first down during the third quarter at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on September 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 37-21. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
D.J. Hayden played 10 seasons in the NFL after he was drafted by the Raiders in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) (Justin Edmonds via Getty Images)

Former Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden was among six people killed in a car crash early Saturday morning in Houston. He was 33.

Houston police said early Saturday morning that a Chrysler 300 ran a red light at a high rate of speed and collided with an Acura SUV. Four people were pronounced dead at the scene and four people were transported to a hospital. Two of the four taken to a hospital later died from their injuries and a woman suffered life-threatening injuries.

Hayden played at the University of Houston and Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu, two of his former teammates, were also killed in the crash while another former teammate, Jeffrey Lewis, was injured.

“The entire University of Houston community is heartbroken over the tragic passing of former football student-athletes D.J. Hayden, Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu earlier today, and our thoughts and prayers remain with Jeffrey Lewis in his recovery ahead,” Houston said in a statement. “We extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends and loved ones as we collectively mourn the loss of three individuals who made an indelible impact on each life they touched. While their combined talents provided Houston Football some of its most unforgettable moments, their unique legacies will best be remembered for the way they loved their teammates, supported their communities and defied the odds.”

According to a report from the Houston Chronicle, the players were in the SUV. The female driver of the Chrysler died at the scene, per police.

Hayden was a first-round pick of the Raiders in 2013 and played four seasons with the team.

"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 on Saturday.

He spent a season in Detroit in 2017 before playing three seasons for Jacksonville and appearing in 14 games for the Washington Commanders in 2021.

He finished his nine-year NFL career with four interceptions and four forced fumbles and tallied 328 tackles over 92 games.

Hayden’s path to the NFL was an improbable one after he suffered a freak injury during a practice at Houston in November of 2012. As Hayden went to defend a pass, a teammate’s knee hit his chest.

In a story detailed by Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab in 2013, Houston athletic trainer Mike O’Shea called 911 not long after the play. After paramedics arrived, he was taken directly to a trauma center where doctors repaired Hayden’s vena cava. The vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart had torn in the hit.

From the 2013 story:

There is a 95 percent fatality rate with that injury, which is usually seen in car accidents. That injury had never happened on a football field before, and the hit that produced it wasn't unusual. Had any of the above steps changed, the resulting delay would have been fatal. He was minutes from dying.

Hayden was historically unlucky and then lucky beyond belief, all in the same afternoon.

"The more you talk about it, the more unbelievable it is," O'Shea said.

Hayden didn’t play during the rest of the 2012 season as he recovered from the surgery but was healthy enough to participate in Houston’s pro day. He ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and that, along with his performance on the field at Houston, was more than enough to convince the Raiders to take him in the first round.

McMillian was a teammate of Hayden’s with the Cougars and had 10 interceptions over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The four-year contributor had 154 tackles in 49 games with the Cougars and had 31 passes defensed. Oragwu played at Houston from 2009-13 before transferring to Marshall.

Houston is set to play Cincinnati on Saturday night in its annual homecoming game.