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When athletes die, we mostly just remember them as athletes and soon move on. We think of their great skills, or exploits, or the moments they delivered that live on in our memory.
But when the final moment on this Earth has come for our sports heroes and we reflect only on their fleeting skills or accomplishments, we do ourselves — and, more importantly, them — a disservice.
Because by doing that we’ve misplaced priorities and dehumanized these men and women, as if they were property rather than people.
This happens across all sports.
Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.
All Pro linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Yankees catcher Thurman Munson.
Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente.
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
And now NFL and former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
We remember them for the race they won or touchdown passes they threw or sacks and 3,000 hits they collected. We connect these folks to their feats and that’s it.
We fail to consider personality and character and influence. We do not, in other words, remember them for the people they were.
It’s happening with Haskins now. He was only 24 years old when he died over the weekend after he was run over by a dump truck while crossing a four-lane highway in Fort Lauderdale.
But not because we have lost a quarterback with potential. Or a hero of bygone games.
It’s sad because if you do even just a little digging on Dwayne Haskins, you understand the planet has lost a bright light.
The first time many of us saw Haskins glow was on May 17, 2008, when an 11-year-old Haskins stepped on the Ohio State campus for the first time and immediately set his destiny.
“This is awesome,” he says through a wide smile on a video that went viral years ago and again this weekend. “I’m going to college here.”
Haskins’s energy, excitement and embrace of grand possibilities is evident on that video shot so long ago. And it gives a peek into who he already was.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, “He had a giant heart, old soul and an infectious smile.”
When Haskins grew into the Ohio State student and player he predicted he’d be, he had to compete. And he competed with future Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow.
Haskins beat out Burrow and Tate Martell in a tough battle to become Ohio State’s starter in 2018. Burrow, unhappy with the result, transferred to Louisiana State.
Fast forward two years and Burrow, now the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, suffered a season ending knee injury against Washington, the team that drafted Haskins in 2019.
A handful of Burrow’s former Ohio State teammates crowded around the cart that was about to carry the injured Bengals quarterback off the field for the final time that season.
Receiver Terry McLaurin came over to Burrow.
Defensive end Chase Young came over Burrow.
And Dwayne Haskins, Burrow’s competitor years before, was the first one there.
“He always wanted everybody around him to succeed,” said Bullis High (MD) football coach Pat Cilento.
You should know Haskins set 28 school records at Ohio State. His 50 touchdown passes in ’18, shattering the old record of 35, turned the program into one recognized for outstanding quarterback play.
But it wasn’t those feats that made Haskins special. It wasn’t what should be remembered most.
“Dwayne was a young man of great intellect who cared deeply about his loved ones and the world,” Washington Commanders team president Jason Wright said.
Now retired Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave a peek into Haskins, the person. They interacted as teammates in 2021, which obviously wasn’t a year Haskins wanted to repeat because he didn’t throw a pass for the Steelers.
But that wasn’t the picture he painted for Roethlisberger:
“He came to work every day with a smile on his face and energy and love in his heart,” Roethlisberger wrote. “His smile and zeal for life will be missed!”
“He’s one of the greatest QBs in Ohio State history, but an even better son, teammate, and friend,” former coach Urban Meyer said.
A makeshift memorial began to take shape at one of the entrance gates at Ohio Stadium over the weekend.
A lone violinist — Ohio State student Adam Whitman, a member of The Ohio State University Marching Band — played “Carmen Ohio” in front of the memorial this weekend.
This is what we must hope he was commemorating:
“Dwayne had such a positive and energetic outlook on life,” Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “[He] always treated people with genuine kindness.”
Remember Dwayne Haskins for that.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero