ROCKAWAY, N.J. — One by one, they fought through the tears with stories of his big arm and even bigger smile.
Coaches. Friends. Former teammates.
All came to say goodbye to the late Dwayne Haskins during a celebration of life on Saturday at the Christ Church in Rockaway. Their memories painted the picture of a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback who was even brighter off the field than he was under center.
“Every time Dwayne walked in a room, you always felt his positive energy,” Steelers wideout Steven Sims said. “Dwayne was filled with love and filled with life. He truly had a heart of gold.”
Haskins died on April 9 after being hit by a truck while walking on a South Florida highway. He was 24.’
His death shocked the NFL community and prompted tributes all over the country, including here in his home state.
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Every stop of his football journey was on display during a Saturday memorial that spanned over three hours. Behind the casket were pictures and framed jerseys from his high school, college and professional teams. About 1,000 mourners packed the Rockaway church and many wore his No. 7 uniform.
Another service will be held Sunday at Bullis School in Maryland.
“His love for life and his vibrant presence were something that always stood out to me,” said Parris Campbell, a college teammate at Ohio State.
“He never missed an opportunity to make someone’s day and that’s what made him special.”
Haskins was born in New Brunswick and raised in Highland Park before developing into a top prospect at Bullis School in Potomac. It was hard to miss the sharp-dressed passer with a tight spiral and an advanced knowledge of the game. The one who started on an 18u team at 11 and dominated.
Quarterback coach Kevin Carty met Haskins when the QB was 11 and could tell he was destined for greatness. Carty’s belief was confirmed a year later when Haskins went to a college camp full of older players.
“Every time they asked a question (about coverages), Dwayne’s hand was the first one up,” Carty said. “He would have a thorough insightful answer and everybody’s jaw would drop.
“About 10 minutes in, they stopped calling on him.”
Haskins was selected 15th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and spent two seasons with Washington before signing last year in Pittsburgh. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described him as a “great teammate” who was one of the hardest workers on the field and in the community.
Tomlin mourned the loss on Friday during a memorial at the Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Pittsburgh – joining Steeler players and executives. Inside the locker room, Haskins was regarded for his upbeat personality.
“I got to meet a young man that didn’t seem to ever have a bad day,” former Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger wrote on Twitter. “He came to work everyday with a smile on his face and energy and love in his heart. I really enjoyed his passion and love for the game and wanting to learn and be the best.”
Before reaching the NFL level, Haskins was one of the best to put on the Ohio State uniform.
In his only season as the Buckeye starter, Haskins was a Heisman Trophy finalist and set Big Ten conference records for completions, passing yards and touchdown passes in a season. The final touches came in a Rose Bowl victory when Haskins threw for three scores and was named MVP. For Haskins, it fulfilled an early childhood dream to spend Saturdays in Columbus.
“He had a personality that was one of one,” said receiver Terry McLaurin, who worked with Haskins at Ohio State and Washington. “And he could spin it like I had never seen it before.”
For those close to Haskins, the accolades only tell a small part of his story. Sims recalled his rookie year in Washington when Haskins let him stay at his home rent-free. McLaurin remembered a teammate who cared about the people around him.
These are the stories of Dwayne Haskins.
“His success and work ethic prove that dreams can come true,” his sister Tamia said. “Being Dwayne Haskins’ little sister has a whole new meaning. It’s a badge of honor, a duty to cherish his life and who he was as a person. I didn’t just know him or love him. The whole world did.”