It seemed former Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins was destined for stardom in the National Football League.
Haskins was a football lifer who grew up idolizing New York Giants signal-caller Eli Manning during his formative years in New Jersey.
Haskins was a first-rate passer who easily connected with his receivers in stride from his grade school days.
It wasn’t surprising when Dwayne Haskins became one of the best and most celebrated quarterbacks in Ohio State Buckeyes football history.
His breakout 2018 NCAA season made him a Heisman Trophy contender and a sure-fire first-round draft pick.
Unfortunately, Haskins underwhelmed at the NFL level and played nowhere near his potential during three up-and-down seasons with Washington and Pittsburgh.
Haskins had a golden opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a starting NFL quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger retired following the 2021 NFL season.
Alas, Dwayne Haskins met his untimely death in the spring of 2022. With his young life cut short, fans will never know how far he could’ve risen in the NFL quarterback ranks.
Dwayne Haskins, Jr. was born to parents Dwayne Sr. and Tamara in Highland Park, NJ on May 3, 1997. He has a sister named Tamia.
Haskins’ family gave him the nickname “Simba” when he was a child. The moniker, which came from the 1994 Disney film “The Lion King,” traced its roots to Tamara Haskins combing her son’s afro which resembled a lion’s mane.
In a first-person essay Haskins wrote for The Players’ Tribune several weeks after the Washington Redskins drafted him in the spring of 2019, he recalled the time when his mother disciplined him harshly.
Haskins didn’t remember how young he was when it happened. He idolized the singer-producer Diddy back in the day.
Diddy had two cuts in his eyebrow and a young Dwayne Haskins wanted to copy his style. Haskins went to the bathroom and cut up his eyebrows.
When Haskins went down the stairs, his mother Tamara noticed the change in his appearance. She asked him what he did to his face as soon as she saw him.
Dwayne Haskins trembled in fear.
She chased him up the stairs and eventually cornered him in the bathroom. She didn’t just discipline him – she used the incident as a valuable teaching moment for her son.
“I got an education that day,” Haskins wrote on PlayersTribune.com in May 2019. “She let me know that it wasn’t just about the two cuts. it was about how I presented myself. About not trying so hard to be like other people.”
Haskins’ mom warned him she would whip him if he continued to fail to make educated decisions.
Family over Everything. Happy Mother’s Day momma. Just want to make you proud. I love you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/P7Yy7VfPH4
— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) May 10, 2020
When Dwayne Haskins first played football as an eight-year-old growing up in Highland Park, NJ, he played fullback and defensive end.
He became a quarterback – the position he became known for during his college days at Ohio State – when he was ten years old.
Haskins threw a game-winning 30-yard touchdown pass on a fade route to future Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Mohamed Jabbie in Pop Warner football in 2007.
Jabbie told ESPN’s John Keim some twelve years later it was the best deep ball he caught in Pop Warner considering the game was on the line and a defender was draped all over him.
Jabbie also marveled at Haskins’ passion for the gridiron. He and Haskins ran routes and prepared for games like they were already at the collegiate level.
Haskins was all about football and academics when he was a young boy.
“He was a football genius and a school nerd,” Jabbie told Keim in 2019.
Haskins always had an incredible football IQ. In fact, when he was just eleven years old at the Darin Slack Academy, he tested as being able to read defenses on a 10th grader’s level.
According to Keim, the gridiron-obsessed Haskins signed up for kids’ football camps and did football drills with his dad, Dwayne Sr.
Dwayne Jr.’s New Jersey roots compelled him to root for the New York Giants as a kid growing up in the Garden State. He idolized two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning.
“I grew up here and lived an hour away from the stadium,” Haskins told the New York Post’s Zach Braziller in the fall of 2019. “(New) Jersey still runs deep in my blood.”
Haskins recalled watching the NFL Draft every year since the Detroit Lions selected Calvin Johnson second overall in 2007, per a first-person essay he wrote on Commanders.com in 2020.
As a result, Haskins dreamed of getting drafted into the National Football League someday. His dream became a reality some twelve years later.
On the home front, Haskins’ mom had been teaching Dwayne since he was a young boy growing up in New Jersey and Maryland.
Math was Haskins’ favorite subject in grade school. He and his classmates did a drill called “Mad Minute” where they had to solve sixteen multiplication and division problems in one minute.
Haskins got eight or ten problems right the first few times he did the drill. When he got home one day, he told his mother Tamara about it and she said he could do better than that.
Before long she started quizzing him at random. For instance, she asked him multiplication or division problems while he was having lunch at home on a Saturday.
Tamara Haskins also printed out worksheets to keep Dwayne busy and sharpen his math skills.
Dwayne became so good he finished the Mad Minute drill in 30 seconds after two weeks. He used his spare time to write additional math problems on the back of the sheet.
Haskins’ mother always led by example – he learned a lot from how she carried herself, how she treated others, and how much she sacrificed for his sake.
When the younger Haskins reached middle school, he impressed former NFL defensive back, Shawn Springs, by throwing a 50-yard spiral with accurate precision downfield.
Springs knew Dwayne Haskins, Sr. The former sometimes pored over game tape of Haskins’ son and gave him quarterbacking tips afterward.
Fourteen-year-old Dwayne Jr. suited up for the USA vs. The World game in Canton, OH in 2011.
Bryson Spinner, a former Virginia Cavaliers quarterback, noticed the short, chubby Haskins played beyond his years at the event. When the ball came out of Haskins’ hand, Spinner knew right then he was going to become a special player.
Dwayne Haskins and his family moved to Potomac, MD when he was fifteen years old.
According to Haskins’ ThePlayersTribune.com essay, they moved to Maryland so he could have better opportunities on the gridiron and in the classroom.
Haskins’ mother was a CPA who moved for an accounting firm in Virginia. He and his sister stayed with their father in New Jersey while she moved to Maryland, so they could finish the school semester.
Without their mother around, Haskins and his sister had to fend for themselves for two months – they had to do the laundry, fold clothes, and do chores themselves.
It was a defining moment in Dwayne Haskins’ life. He couldn’t figure out how his mother balanced three jobs – accountant, wife, and mother – so efficiently.
Another downside Haskins and his sister had to live with was their father’s cooking.
“Look, I love my dad,” Haskins wrote on the PlayersTribune.com in 2019. “But that man cannot cook. We were living off egg beaters, Steak-umms, Bubba burgers, ramen noodles.”
Dwayne Haskins attended Bullis School in Potomac, MD. He excelled as quarterback for the Bullis Bulldogs.
Haskins’ throwing prowess blew Bulldogs head football coach Pat Cliento away.
“The first thing you saw was how the ball jumped off his hands,” Cliento told ESPN in 2019. “It was like, ‘Wow, this kid is special.'”
Haskins’ obsession with football reached epic proportions in high school – he always carried a football in his backpack. He even brought it out in the school hallway occasionally.
School officials had to ask Haskins to leave his football at his house or in his locker.
Dwayne Haskins’ leadership skills were also evident when he played quarterback for the Bulldogs. Cliento remembered Haskins always arriving early for throwing sessions with his wide receivers.
If Haskins wasn’t satisfied with how the sessions went, he asked his receivers to stay after practice to iron out the kinks. Sometimes, the extra sessions took hours, to the dismay of the Bulldog’s wide receivers.
According to ESPN, Haskins worked with Bryson Spinner three or four times weekly. The former arrived with his family sometime at 9 p.m. and worked on his quarterbacking skills with Spinner for at least one hour.
Spinner also remembered times when Haskins rang him up at all hours of the day and peppered him with questions about pro football fundamentals after watching the NFL Network.
It took some time for Haskins’ star to shine – he didn’t receive a scholarship offer until he was a junior in high school, per Keim.
The first college football team that wanted Dwayne Haskins’ services was the SMU Mustangs.
— Elite11 (@Elite11) April 19, 2015
When Haskins exceeded expectations at the Elite 11 camp just before his senior year, his stock immediately skyrocketed.
Haskins had 5,308 passing yards and 54 touchdowns as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. He led them to three state titles.
He initially committed to the Maryland Terrapins during his senior season at Bullis. However, he had a change of heart when the school fired the coaching staff.
Dwayne Haskins was in a quandary. He and his family reached out to new coaches, but they weren’t sure if they were the best fit for him.
Haskins eventually whittled down his shortlist to the Florida State Seminoles, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Penn State Nittany Lions, and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Haskins did the first thing that came to mind when he was making a tough decision – he asked his mother for advice.
She didn’t tell him what to do. Instead, she asked him what school he liked the most. They weighed the pros and cons of each option.
When they discussed Ohio State, she reminded him about his younger days when he attended Buckeyes’ football camps.
Even as a fifth-grader, Dwayne Haskins had always wanted to represent the Ohio State Buckeyes. He looked into the camera and proclaimed he was going to attend college in Columbus, OH when he and his dad visited the campus in 2008.
“I’m going to go to college here.” – A young Dwayne Haskins walking around the Ohio State campus.
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) April 9, 2022
Haskins’ mother encouraged him to follow his heart. He did and eventually committed to Ohio State University.
“It was the best decision I have ever made,” Haskins wrote on ThePlayersTribune.com several years later.
Dwayne Haskins would eventually rewrite the Ohio State Buckeye football record books in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days With The Ohio State Buckeyes
Dwayne Haskins attended Ohio State University from 2016 to 2018. He majored in journalism.
Haskins redshirted his true freshman season in 2016. He played behind starter J.T. Barrett as a redshirt freshman a year later. Haskins honed his leadership skills while watching from the sidelines.
Haskins learned the nuances of the college game the hard way. He told ESPN he made the incorrect protection call the first time he took the field against the Illinois Fighting Illini in 2017.
Consequently, the Illinois pass rushers sacked Haskins in garbage time. Haskins learned a valuable lesson – he had to be prepared at all times.
Haskins dug his heels in and added an extra ten hours to his weekly film study sessions, per Keim.
Haskins’ diligence and commitment reaped massive dividends during his breakout redshirt sophomore campaign in Columbus, OH in 2018.
It was one of the most memorable seasons a Buckeyes quarterback ever had.
Haskins took over as Ohio State’s starting signal-caller after Barrett graduated following the 2017 NCAA campaign.
He passed for more than 3,100 yards and 33 touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ first ten games that year. Ohio State won nine of ten games during that stretch.
Dwayne Haskins continued his streak as the 2018 NCAA season wound down. He had a combined 1,551 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and just two interceptions against the Maryland Terrapins, Michigan Wolverines, Northwestern Wildcats, and Washington Huskies during the season’s final stretch.
Haskins’ best game of his college football career was against fourth-ranked Michigan on November 24, 2018.
He had 396 passing yards and six touchdown passes in the Buckeyes’ 62-39 thrashing of their hated rivals. Haskins solidified his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy after that stirring victory.
Dwayne Haskins threw a beautiful ball at Ohio State pic.twitter.com/KoW9tOzeuv
— Mr. Ohio (@MrOH1O) April 2, 2022
Ohio State finished the 2018 season with an outstanding 13-1 win-loss record with Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback.
Haskins’ college football career culminated with a resounding 28-23 victory over the ninth-ranked Washington Huskies in the 2018 Rose Bowl.
In what turned out to be Haskins’ final college football game, he had 251 passing yards, three touchdown passes, and zero interceptions in the Buckeyes’ win over the Huskies.
Haskins’ stat line in 2018 was one for the ages: 4,831 passing yards, 50 touchdown passes, and eight interceptions.
To nobody’s surprise, he earned a slew of accolades that year including First-Team All-Big Ten, Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year, and Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Haskins also won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football award, Kellen Moore Award, and Sammy Baugh Trophy.
He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind quarterbacks Kyler Murray of the Oklahoma Sooners and Tua Tagovailoa of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Dwayne Haskins decided to forego his final two years of eligibility to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Haskins embarked on a three-year pro football career with the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers that was marred by unspeakable tragedy in 2022.
Pro Football Career
The Washington Redskins made Dwayne Haskins the 19th overall selection of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Haskins felt things fell into place naturally after the Redskins drafted him. He remembered attending Redskins games when he was in high school in Potomac, MD.
Haskins was also the sports editor of his high school newspaper. He wrote about former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III back then, per Commanders.com.
Many pundits and fans expected the New York Giants to draft Haskins with the sixth overall selection that year. Big Blue badly needed a quarterback because Haskins’ childhood idol Eli Manning was already 38 years old and on the verge of retiring.
Giants GM Dave Gettleman and co. selected Duke Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6 in 2019.
Despite getting passed over by the Giants, Haskins never harbored a grudge against the team he grew up following.
Ironically, Haskins’ pro debut was against Big Blue on September 30, 2019.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. Haskins replaced Redskins starter Case Keenum and converted nine of 17 passes for 107 yards, zero touchdown passes, and three interceptions. The Giants routed the Redskins, 24-3.
He told the New York Post after the game that he had no ill will toward the Giants. He said he had extra motivation to beat them considering both New York and Washington were fierce NFC East rivals.
Haskins’ lone consolation was meeting his idol, Eli Manning, after the game. He told Manning he had always appreciated his play as quarterback for the Giants.
Growing up I was a huge AP fan. Having the opportunity to be his teammate and learn from him, has been an experience I’ll never forget. Thank you for always having my back big bro! I’m going to make you proud, best of luck! #AllDay pic.twitter.com/QmpvOpGFYz
— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) September 4, 2020
During Haskins’ first few weeks in Redskins Gold and Burgundy, he was in awe of running back Adrian Peterson. Haskins swore Peterson played the same way he did in highlight reels during his glory days with the Minnesota Vikings.
Peterson, strong safety Landon Collins, and offensive lineman Morgan Moses all took Haskins under their wing during his rookie year in 2019.
Washington quarterbacks Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, and Case Keenum advised Haskins to hit the weights on Tuesdays so he had ample recovery time and to schedule longer meetings with their quarterback’s coach.
The three Redskins signal-callers also showed him various scouting reports to help him prepare for games better.
Dwayne Haskins made a conclusion about the quarterback position in the NFL when he was a rookie.
“Quarterbacking in the NFL is so much more complicated and difficult,” Haskins wrote on Commanders.com in 2020. “Everyone is good at what they do.”
Haskins discovered several nuances about quarterbacking in the NFL. For instance, if he stared at a tight end too long, linebackers could jump the route and make a deflection or interception.
Haskins also found out the defense could figure out when the center snapped the ball to him based on his location behind the offensive line.
Haskins considered the Redskins’ 19-16 victory over the Detroit Lions on November 25, 2019, the most nerve-wracking of his NFL career.
— Will Selva (@WillSelvaTV) November 24, 2019
Both teams went back and forth for the majority of the game. Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin caught a pass from Haskins that set them up for Dustin Hopkins’ potentially game-winning field goal.
Hopkins kicked the ball through the uprights, Washington recorded an interception several plays later, and Dwayne Haskins’ first NFL victory was made official.
A jubilant Haskins threw his water bottle, looked at the sky, and shouted with all his might. Unfortunately, Haskins’ joy in 2019 was short-lived.
The habitual losing weighed heavily on Dwayne Haskins’ conscience. When he was in college, losing two games during the season was already a big deal.
The Redskins lost thirteen games during his rookie year in 2019. They also missed the postseason for the fourth straight year.
Haskins finished his rookie year with 1,365 passing yards, seven touchdown passes, and seven interceptions in nine games for Washington.
He wasn’t that much better in his second year in the pro football ranks. Haskins had 1,439 passing yards, five touchdown passes, and seven interceptions in 2020.
The re-christened Washington Football Team won seven games that year under new head coach Ron Rivera. Unfortunately, they lost to Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Wild Card Game, 31-23.
Haskins broke COVID-19 protocols twice during the 2020 NFL season. The Washington Football Team fined him $40,000 and stripped him of his captaincy the second time around in December 2020.
The team eventually released Dwayne Haskins that same month.
— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) January 21, 2021
Haskins signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks later. He became the team’s third-string quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph.
Haskins languished on the Steelers bench and did not take the field in the 2021 NFL campaign.
He signed a one-year restricted free agent tender with Pittsburgh on March 16, 2022.
Dwayne Haskins told Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley he looked forward to becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL after he signed his deal.
It seemed a door opened for Haskins when Roethlisberger, a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, retired following the 2021 NFL season.
Alas, that door never opened for Haskins. Instead, an unspeakable tragedy occurred less than a month after signing his Steelers contract.
Dwayne Haskins’ Untimely Death
Dwayne Haskins died after a dump truck struck him near the Interstate 95 exit in South Florida on April 9, 2022. Investigators pronounced Haskins dead at the scene.
He was just twenty-four days short of his 25th birthday.
The Broward County Medical Examiner determined Haskins succumbed to “multiple blunt force injuries” and ruled his death an accident, per NBC Sports Washington’s Brian Hamacher.
An autopsy report that Hamacher obtained revealed Haskins was heavily intoxicated at the time of his death. He had a blood-alcohol level between 0.20 and 0.24 which was almost three times above Florida’s legal limit.
It turned out he drank the night before at a local nightclub with his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates. They trained all day before having dinner at the club.
Haskins also tested positive for the sedative and party drug ketamine, per Hamacher. He got into a fight with another individual at the club but cooler heads eventually prevailed.
Haskins was with a female companion when their vehicle ran out of fuel along I-595. He left her and the vehicle to find a nearby gas station.
Witnesses told investigators Haskins was flagging down cars on the freeway’s shoulder when the dump truck hit him.
Dwayne Haskins and his wife Kalaybra resided in the Pittsburgh, PA area at the time of his death.