Former NFL defensive back and first-round draft pick DJ Hayden, 33, was among six people killed early Saturday morning after a car ran a red light and struck another vehicle in Houston.
The University of Houston confirmed in a statement to CNN that in addition to Hayden, former Cougars players Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu also died in the crash. The Las Vegas Raiders, one of Hayden’s former teams, also confirmed Hayden’s death in a statement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Houston police officers responded to a “serious accident” near Fannin and Pierce streets around 2 a.m., Deputy Police Chief Megan Howard said in a news conference.
The six victims were five men and one woman, and four of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, Howard said.
A black Acura SUV was traveling south on Fannin Street and crossing the intersection at Pierce Street on a green light when a black Chrysler 300 ran a red light at a “high rate of speed” and struck the Acura, police said a press release.
“The impact ejected several people in the vehicles,” the press release said.
Police said three people in the Acura may have been ejected, and two of them died at the scene, the release said.
A third victim, who was fatally struck when the Chrysler left the road and onto the sidewalk, is believed to be homeless, officials said.
The fourth victim, who died at the scene, was the driver of the at-fault Chrysler, police said.
Police are not sure who was driving the Acura, which will be determined through the investigation, Howard said.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Hayden was among those in the Acura. Houston police would not confirm that information to CNN on Saturday.
During the news conference, Howard said four other people were taken to the hospital, two of whom later died.
Howard said a woman was in serious condition and had life-threatening injuries.
The deputy chief medical officer added that investigators interviewed a man at the hospital who the University of Houston confirmed to CNN was Jeffery Lewis, another former Cougar player.
“The entire University of Houston community is heartbroken by the tragic deaths of former football student-athletes DJ Hayden, Zachary McMillian and Ralph Oragwu earlier today, and our thoughts and prayers are with Jeffery Lewis for his impending recovery,” the university said in the Press release statement.
“We extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends and loved ones and join in mourning the loss of three people who had an indelible impact on every life they touched. While their combined talents gave Houston football some of its most memorable moments, their unique legacy will be remembered most for the way they loved their teammates, supported their communities and defied adversity,” the statement continued.
Hayden, who suffered a near-fatal heart injury after being hit in practice in 2012, was drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders in the 2013 NFL Draft. He went on to play for eight seasons and also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Commanders and Detroit Lions.
“DJ’s courage, tenacity and commitment to his teammates will be fondly remembered by all who knew him,” the Raiders said in a statement to X. “The prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with DJ’s loved ones at this time,” the team said.