Three former University of Houston football players, including ex-NFL cornerback D.J. Hayden, were among six people killed during a car crash in downtown Houston early Saturday morning.

Zachary McMillan, Ralph Oragwu and Hayden were in an Acura SUV when a Chrysler 300 ran a red light at a high rate of speed and collided with them. Another former Cougar teammate, Jeffrey Lewis, was also hurt in the accident.

A total of four people were announced dead at the scene and four people were transported to a hospital, where two of them died from their injuries. Hayden was 33.

A moment of silence was held during the Cougars’ home game against Cincinnati at TDECU Stadium on Saturday.

D.J. Hayden was drafted 12th overall by the Oakland Raiders, and the UH product went on to spend eight seasons in the NFL. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

“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.”

A product of Elkins High School, Hayden played from 2011-12  at UH before being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft (12th overall) by the Raiders. Hayden played for the Raiders from 2013-16 and later spent time with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville prior to a short stint with Washington in 2021.

In 2012, Hayden suffered a life-threatening injury during a practice while at UH, where a collision with a teammate tore the inferior vena cava in his heart and required emergency surgery. But he still earned first-team All-Conference USA honors that year and recovered enough to be drafted and play eight seasons in the NFL.

“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. “The prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with D.J.’s loved ones at this time.”

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....