A farewell letter to Dwayne Haskins after former Washington QB’s tragic death

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 27: Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team looks to hand off the ball during a NFL football game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on December 27, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 27: Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Washington Football Team looks to hand off the ball during a NFL football game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on December 27, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

“The league done messed up.” I remember those words like it was yesterday. Sitting with my Dad in the living room on the night of April 25, 2019, I haven’t been as excited as I was to watch an individual player in my life, post-Sean Taylor, as I was for Dwayne Haskins.

Dwayne Haskins was the first QB prospect I ever seriously watched, the first player that drove me to begin grinding the tape, to take seriously as a Quarterback prospect. In April of 2019, I only wrote for a small website about the San Antonio Spurs, but I knew eventually I wanted to lob my thoughts about the now-Washington Commanders at some point that year.

Lo and behold, September 2019 came around, and with the announcement I made via social media about my move to Riggo’s Rag, the GIF I used had Dwayne Haskins hitting a “shmoney” dance in his full Washington uniform.

From rookie patch autographed trading cards, to a jersey I was gifted that following Christmas of 2019, Dwayne Haskins to me, as a fan, was my guy. I didn’t know how to balance the fandom I had for a team and the objective writing state that is needed to succeed in a business like this one, but I can safely say without the arrival of Dwayne Haskins in Washington, I don’t know if I would be the guy that I am today.

To be fair, I’ve never met Dwayne. I’ve interacted with him on social media once, where he liked a tweet of mine showing support for him and his upcoming season. Other than that, I didn’t “know” Dwayne. But, I don’t think I have to have known him for him to have an impact on my life, professionally and as a fan.

As a fan, Dwayne Haskins brought a fire back for me to engage wholeheartedly with a team that has been lackadaisical over my lifetime. From the oozing confidence he displayed on draft night, to the rifle of an arm we saw throughout his time at Ohio State, regardless of the outcome of his time as a Redskin, Haskins brought my love for the game back and launched it into new heights. I could relate to him. I’m a confident guy, I love football, and I like to dress well, but in a sense, we, as fans, look up to pro athletes whether we realize it or not. At that moment, I rooted for Dwayne harder than any other player in the league. I can’t thank him enough for that; for that experience.

I also can’t thank him enough for making me a better writer and a better football mind. I had never been this invested, from writing, to review, to listening about one specific player, ever in my entire life. Never had I sat down and invested hours on end into figuring out the nuances of not only his game, but the quarterback position itself. At this stage, I’m not Kyle Shanahan by any means, but Dwayne’s presence in Washington for me as a writer brought a fire out of me that I didn’t know was there. Haskins’ arrival in Washington turned what was a casual fan, into a writer of a football team that takes every aspect of the game seriously.

I’ve always been determined, but to this extent? I’ve always loved sports, always loved football. But to this extent? I’ve been a fan, I still am a fan, but to the point where I’m emotionally investing in learning what’s going on down in between those lines? Dwayne brought that out of me. I can’t thank him enough for that.

It was tough for me to write pieces about areas Dwayne had to improve on. It was tough to tweet, to write, to discuss where he was as a player in Washington, and looking back, I know in order to be a writer you have to call the game how you are seeing it. Yet, it feels like those articles, the tweets, football itself, it’s like it doesn’t even matter at this point. It’s unimportant. Who cares whether someone missed a throw?

I couldn’t care less about how his time in Washington ended. Why? Because beyond the field, Dwayne Haskins was a guy I could relate to from afar — a guy that I believe had a wonderful heart, a beautiful spirit, and everyone he interacted with had nothing but great things to say about him. That’s what matters in life. Not a chinstrap, not the pigskin, but your ability to selflessly love and appreciate any and everyone despite the differences we all have with one another.

Beyond football, Dwayne was a man of faith. The term “Christian”, is loaded with assumptions, and unlike what the vast majority thinks, no, not all “Christians” are the same or believe the same thing. One thing that stood out to me about Dwayne’s faith, a comparison between both of our faiths, isn’t the fact that we believe we are “better” for following Jesus or “better” because we have a religion.

No, what stood out to me, and what I know mattered to Dwayne above all else in his walk, judging from the influx of love shown via social media, is that he believed that love conquers all. Love matters most. Dwayne Haskins as a man, a husband, a son, loved more than you can ever imagine. Beyond football, beyond the shoulder pads, beyond the J. Cole lyric tweets, rapping to Nipsey Hussle after his first win in 2020, Dwayne Haskins valued love more than anything else on this planet.

As a Christian, we aren’t the holders of “all of the answers” to life’s problems. Our scripture is ambiguous, leading to wisdom over clear-cut answers to and from the divine. But for Christians, the hope isn’t in a disembodied bliss for a select few, no. The hope is in the resurrection of all creation, that begins in this life, that begins with us bringing the Kingdom of God here and now and on into the next life. The hope is in the belief of a creator that loved his creation so much, that he walked amongst it as a 1st-century Jewish man, born of a poor family, that sat with the marginalized, ate with the outcasts, washed the feet of his followers, and ultimately was tortured and embarrassed to death. But rather than come back with violence, he speaks with love and says, “I am holding your hand all the way home, this is not everything, but just a stepping stone.”

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Dwayne Haskins for bringing out a fire in me as a fan and writer. For making me a better all-around football mind, for bringing me closer to the game, but above all else, thank you for being you. I never met you, but you and I are just one year apart, and you made me a better man just by following your journey. You did so much in your limited time on this planet, but you leave a legacy that goes beyond the sport you played. You were a good young man, a dedicated man, a man of love, and a man that I know, as your family deals with your loss, are so proud of everything you were able to accomplish in your 24 years on this Earth.

To his family, I am so sorry for your loss. I am sorry that this happened. I will continue to pray for rest amongst your household, and if there’s any way I can help, I will. I’m donating the funds that come from this article to Wolf Trap Animal Rescue, a charity that Dwayne partnered with for his ‘My Cause My Cleats campaign” in 2019. If there is any way I can help outside of that, please let me know.

To the readers that have made it to the end of this piece, please do your part in praying, sending good vibes, thinking, and most importantly, loving one another. Without love, we are nothing. Dwayne was a young man that was full of love, so in his honor, in his spirit, please tell someone that you love them, from the bottom of your heart.

Thank you, Dwayne, for playing a crucial role in not only my development as a writer and a football mind, but for making me a fan of yours. Fly high, my friend.

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