POTOMAC, Md. — After a home-going celebration in his native New Jersey and a memorial service in his most recent home city of Pittsburgh, the family, friends and fans of Dwayne Haskins Jr. gathered Sunday evening outside of Washington, D.C., his teenage stomping grounds, and paid their final respects to the former NFL quarterback.
Two weeks ago, the 24-year-old Haskins died in South Florida after a dump truck struck him in the early morning hours of April 9 as Haskins tried to cross a highway on foot after running out of gas. Haskins had spent the days leading up to his death training with Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, hoping to position himself to compete for the starting quarterback job.
A potential-filled life snuffed out far too early. A son, brother and friend lost well before his time.
The Bullis High School football stadium served as the backdrop for Haskins’ final celebration of life.
At the 50-yard line of the same field where Haskins shined from 2013-16, passing for 54 touchdowns and 5,308 yards while earning 42 scholarship offers, groundskeepers had painted a giant “7” — the number the quarterback wore for the majority of his youth, high school, college and professional career. From one 40-yard line to the other, stretched easels bearing framed jerseys — one from a high school all-star game, another from Haskins’ Bullis days, a third from Ohio State and a fourth from Haskins’ time with the Washington Commanders — and poster-sized photographs and paintings of Haskins in game action. At the center of the arrangement sat a navy and yellow Bullis helmet encircled by candles.
MORE:Dwayne Haskins’ wife says QB was out walking to get gas before fatal accident, 911 audio reveals
More than 50 of Haskins’ closest family members and friends sat on one side of the display. Roughly two dozen members of the Commanders organization – including owners Daniel and Tanya Snyder, former teammates Jonathan Allen, Chase Young and Kendall Fuller, and Washington officials Jason Wright and Doug Williams — sat across from the family. Meanwhile, several hundred other friends and fans — a handful wearing Bullis, Ohio State, or Washington Haskins jerseys — sat in the stadium stands. Together, they responded to tales of Haskins’ life with tears, laughs and hugs.
“A tremendous tragedy,” Snyder told USA TODAY Sports after the service, which lasted just shy of two hours. “I’ll always remember him for being a great person, and I enjoyed every minute with him. Just a tremendous tragedy, though.”
Allen, Washington’s star defensive tackle and Haskins’ teammate of two seasons, shared Snyder’s sentiments.
“It was tough. When you looked at Dwayne, he had just so much more ahead of him,” Allen told USA TODAY Sports. “Obviously, being just 24 years old, he was super young. But man, I feel like there’s always a new layer with Dwayne. Hearing the stories tonight and talking with family and friends, coaches, you’re like, ‘Wow. That was a great man that we lost.’ So, my condolences just go out to the family.”
Throughout the service, everyone from former coaches, including Ohio State’s Ryan Day, to mentors, like former Ohio State and NFL star Shawn Springs, and former academic advisor/Bullis head of school Dr. Gerald Boarman, all shared similar stories of Haskins.
There were retellings of football heroics.
Haskins leading Bullis to a comeback victory over archrival Georgetown Prep despite a sprained ankle too tender for him to place any weight on it.
Haskins establishing himself as Ohio State’s starting quarterback in 2018 and setting single-season school records for touchdown passes (50) and passing yards (4,831), among other records.
Haskins garnering Heisman Trophy finalist honors before being selected 15th overall by Washington.
But even more prominent in the minds of the speakers ranked recollections of a young man, who carried himself with a self-assurance, humility and warm demeanor that caused him to look for ways to uplift teammates while exhibiting an even stronger love for his family, especially little sister, Tamia Haskins.
“Dwayne loved big,” Day told the audience. “And that love and legacy still lives on at Ohio State. … He was relevant. He was significant. I just wish I had more time with him on this earth. Our program is forever in debt to Dwayne Haskins and the Haskins family.”
Day and others spoke with pride when recalling Haskins’ accomplishments.
“I know God answered my prayers, because in the 24 short years of his life, he was able to accomplish all of his childhood goals,” Tamia Haskins said during her speech. “I was able to witness every side of his journey and his version of success.”
But then she lamented that her biggest cheerleader, who often came home from college to attend her school plays and financed her college education, wouldn’t get to see her acting career further blossom.
Haskins indeed spoke his dreams into existence. From declaring as a 12-year-old that he would one day star at Ohio State, to predicting during his high school years that he would someday become Washington’s starting quarterback, he pursued and achieved goals.
Most recently, Haskins — who looked to resurrect his career after Washington released him in 2020 — had promised his former high school coach that he would eventually win the Steelers’ starting quarterback job and reinvigorate the Pittsburgh fan base for years to come.
Haskins never got the chance to make that goal a reality.
But based on the success he experienced in high school and college, those close to him firmly believe Haskins would have indeed developed into a similarly prolific passer on the NFL ranks.
A playing career and life prematurely cut short will do nothing to diminish the positives that Haskins the person provided those in his life, however. Those individuals vow that Haskins’ legacy of love, humility and determination will continue to positively affect them.
“When you look at a guy that was that young and that successful, he was definitely a great inspiration to many,” Allen said. “Even though he was taken away from us too soon, he definitely was able to have an impact on this world that he left.”