The NFL community has lost one of its own.
In addition to Hayden, fellow former University of Houston football players Zach McMillan, 32, Ralph Oragwu, 31, and another man and woman died in the accident, which occurred around 2 a.m. after a Chrysler 300 went speeding through a red light and hit an Acura SUV, the Houston Chronicle reported, citing a local police report.
A Houston Police Department spokeswoman said at a press briefing that another man, former UH football player Jeffery Lewis, and a woman survived the collision and remain hospitalized. The latter has life-threatening injuries, the spokeswoman said. The driver of the Chrysler was killed, while authorities have not yet determined who was driving the Acura. In addition, one of the victims appeared to be homeless, the police spokeswoman said. The incident remains under investigation.
"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 Jeffery Lewis in his recovery ahead," the University of Houston Athletics 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."
The statement continued, "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."
Hayden was born Derek Sherrard Hayden, Jr. and is originally from Missouri City, Tex. He played as a defensive back at UH in 2011 and 2012. The latter year, during a practice, he suffered a life-threatening injury in which he tore a major vein that feeds his heart and underwent surgery.
In 2013, the Raiders selected Hayden as the No. 12 draft pick. He played as a cornerback for the California team for four seasons before he signed with the Detroit Lions in 2017. One year later, he signed a three-year contract with the Jackson Jaguars. In 2021, he joined the Washington Commanders' practice squad but was released the following year.
Hayden is survived by his parents, Tori Hayden and Derek Hayden.