- The Washington Times
Sunday, April 24, 2022


POTOMAC — Since Dwayne Haskins’ death, much of the focus has centered on the why. Why was the young quarterback wandering in the middle of a highway? Why, if his car ran out of gas, as a 911 call suggested, did Haskins not just call for road service? 

Why did it all feel so avoidable? 

Some of these questions may never be answered. And even if they are, the answers won’t change that, at 24, Haskins died much too young. It won’t change how his wife, Kalabrya, sobbed over her husband’s casket at a funeral in Pittsburgh on Friday. Or how his little sister Tamia fought through tears while reflecting on her brother’s life during another memorial service Saturday at a church in New Jersey.

Over the last three days, three separate services were held to honor Haskins: one in Pittsburgh, another in  New Jersey and the latest at Maryland’s Bullis School — a vigil on the same prep school football field where the quarterback once starred. Each tribute provided a reminder. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Haskins’ death, the quarterback had a deep impact on those he knew. And that’s worth focusing on, too. 

He taught me what it was like to be a real friend,” Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin said Saturday. “A real friend. And that means being honest with somebody. That means supporting someone when they’re down. And that means loving them at their valleys and the mountaintops. … For that, I’ll always be thankful for Dwayne.

“He made me a better man and a better friend,” McLaurin said.

When Haskins played for the Burgundy and Gold, he perhaps had no closer friend in the locker room than McLaurin. After all, the two arrived together as Ohio State teammates, Haskins the 15th overall pick, McLaurin the 76th.

Ironically, their careers went in different directions. McLaurin emerged as the star, while Haskins flamed out in less than a full two seasons.

But McLaurin remained his friend. In October 2020, when Haskins was benched for the first time, McLaurin said the adversity was nothing that Haskins couldn’t overcome. “Any way I can support him, I’m willing to do that,” the wide receiver said back then. 

Haskins was unable to overcome that adversity. His life was cut short. It’s why Haskins’ actual football legacy is complicated and rather messy. Few have enjoyed the on-the-field successes that Haskins did  — setting records at Ohio State, becoming an NFL first-rounder.

And few have fallen as far from such dizzying heights.

Haskins made legitimate mistakes in the NFL — like his multiple violations of the league’s pandemic protocols. With Pittsburgh, he seemed to be trying to bounce back from those mistakes. 

Football was a huge part of Haskins’ persona — he so badly wanted to be an NFL starting quarterback — but there was more to his life than the game. That much was made clear over the weekend by those who loved him, those who shared memories with other mourners. 

After his death, almost everyone who knew him pointed out Haskins’ infectious smile. That smile cheered others up. Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt wrote that it seemed like Haskins never took life for granted. Chase Claypool, a Pittsburgh wideout, tweeted that Haskins cared so much for teammates and making sure others were OK. 

On Sunday, those at Bullis talked about Haskins‘ impact. Ohio State coach Ryan Day shared how Haskins, when he was still a backup in 2017, spent 45 minutes after a game playing catch with Day’s son. That type of moment was common for Haskins, who served as a bigger brother figure for many. 

Haskins‘ connection to his actual family, though, shed the brightest light on who the 24-year-old was.

Tamia Haskins, four years younger than her sibling, likes to say that if it wasn’t for her brother, she wouldn’t be there. When he was growing up, the story goes, Haskins repeatedly begged his parents for a little sister. The two were almost inseparable, family and friends recounted, each with dreams of their own. For Dwayne, that was football. For Tamia, it’s acting.

When Tamia got up to speak Sunday, addressing the crowd, she remembered how her brother used to yell, “That’s my sister!” from the front row of her productions whenever she was in a school play. She had to remind him, she said, that the stage wasn’t a football stadium — he wasn’t allowed to do that.

What she wouldn’t give now to hear that same shoutout again.

“Dwayne, you will have a front-row view of me building my own legacy,” Tamia said. “Honoring you, through everything I create and perform, I can hear you screaming, ‘That’s my sister!’ from heaven. And now you can be as loud as your want. Until I get to see you again, save me a seat because I have so much to share with you.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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