Dwayne Haskins was loved by the Steelers, Ohio State, community

I hope Dwayne Haskins knew how much he was loved. How happy just to see his bright smile made people who got to see it. How Pittsburgh kids were likely to be deeply affected by a member of the beloved Steelers who said he also had concerns.

I hope he knew he was so much more than his talents, than his career, than football.

Based on some stories that have come out since Haskins’ death last Saturday, it looks like the last part was true. Haskins was first and foremost a human being, a kind young man who freely gave his time to charitable events, an introvert who made himself noticed in the position where the spotlight is clearest, one who insisted on embraced a reporter and prayed for her when she was in tears over her grandmother’s recent death and trying to make it inconspicuous, away from the busy locker room.

He had talked about his personal growth, the kind we all experience after we leave university, the time when we think we know everything and have figured it all out, only to quickly realize that we do certainly not. Haskins went through that period in public, with the weight and expectation of being a first-round pick, our culture so obsessed with the draft and the rankings – as if any of them are a prediction for something – and something blind to that fact , having the football career Haskins made is an extraordinary achievement in itself.

We may be unable to see athletes as anything other than goods or transactions, instead of children who may be overwhelmed or scared or homesick. Or maybe all of the above, and too nervous to tell anyone that they feel they are fumbling a bit, on the court, off the court, and it starts to snowball. And that if someone does not step in to help, they may not be able to play, may not get started, may forget it just to get to the damn NFL is something so few can ever say they have done and that there are people who love them for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with football.

I hope Dwayne Haskins knew how much he was loved.

Dwayne Haskins was so much more than the headlines he made. Just listen to his coaches and teammates in the wake of his death. (Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports)

I hope his family and friends for the little consolation can get from lovely statements and tweets that have come out after his death that Haskins himself in life has heard coaches and teammates say what an amazing person he was. How much devotion they had for him. How they appreciated his friendship. How they admired his work ethic.

That they did not expect that they had plenty of time to tell him so in the future, and that they had told him a random Tuesday, gotten past the awkwardness they must have felt, and just let him know.

Others have forgotten all that with terrible results. In the race to be the first to break the news by a few seconds, in the pursuit of feeding the content beast, in line with the way players have long been viewed as anything other than humans, these humans distilled all about Dwayne Haskins the moment after his death down to their belief that he was one disappointment over professional footballthat because he did not do things the way they wanted to, he should be characterized in outrageous ways.

If you first saw Haskins and the other men in the NFL as humans, you would not have to apologize for painting them as something minor.

It’s tragic that far too much of the discussion has been on harsh tweets and shockingly alleged “analysis” instead of the young man – the son, the husband, the brother, the teammate, the friend – who worked to be the best version of himself, the radiant smile ready.

Maybe Haskins would have been a starting quarterback again one day, maybe he wouldn’t have it. It really should not matter. The kids at Fulton Elementary just minutes from the Steelers’ training facility last month did not care that Haskins was not the team’s star quarterback. He was a superman, period. And he took the time to read to them and answer their questions, and he gave him a hug that wrapped his arms around him.

A family, a team, several communities – they all lost a man who, according to many accounts, was kind, considerate and worked to pursue his dream.

I hope Dwayne Haskins knew how much he was loved.

Leave a Comment