Death of Steelers’ Haskins Sparks Praise, Outrage Toward Gil Brandt

Jay Maxson | April 10, 2022
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In his short life, the late Dwayne Haskins was regarded as an outstanding young man of faith. A devout Christian and quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his death sparked an “outpouring of grief” from many people associated with the NFL, especially his former team, the Washington Commanders, and his current club, the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

They all spoke highly of the young quarterback, who had an incredible year at Ohio State (he threw 50 TD passes) before turning pro. Haskins, 24, was walking along a highway in South Florida Saturday when he was struck and killed by a dump truck. 

Gil Brandt, 90 years old and a Hall of Famer who was a long-time executive with Dallas, said in a regrettable NFL Radio interview that “any death is tragic, before these inexcusable remarks: 

He was a guy that was living to be dead, so to speak. You know, they told him, ‘don’t under any circumstances, leave school early. You just don’t have the work habits, you don’t have this, you don’t have that.' What did he do? He left school early … It was always something … Maybe if he stayed in school a year he wouldn’t do silly things [like] jogging on a highway ... 

Those comments exploded virally, prompting angry remarks. Pittsburgh defensive lineman Cam Heyward tweeted at Brandt, “I do not know or will assume to but please don’t speak on my friend. He will be missed and your words are disgraceful. We are all hurting right now.” 

Annie Apple, the mother of Cincinnati cornerback Eli Apple, called Brandt a “gutless garbage pile of skin. And this guy was a player personnel for 30 years in the National Football League.”  

Others called his comments “disgusting”, “positively some of the worst commentary I’ve heard.” 

While the backlash against Brandt continued, he tweeted

This morning while learning of Dwayne Haskins’ passing, I reacted carelessly and insensitively on a radio interview. I want to apologize to Mr. Haskins’ family and anyone who heard my poor choice of words. I truly apologize. My heart goes out to his family at this difficult time. 

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said: “I am devastated and at a loss for words with the unfortunate passing of Dwayne Haskins. He quickly became part of our Steelers family upon his arrival in Pittsburgh and was one of our hardest workers, both on the field and in our community. Dwayne was a great teammate, but even more so a tremendous friend to so many. I am truly heartbroken. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Kalabrya, and his entire family during this difficult time.” 

Haskins previously played for Washington after becoming the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said he is “absolutely heartbroken” over Haskins’ death. 

CBN News reported Haskins’ father, Dwayne Sr, “taught him how to pray, live life selflessly and give back to the community.” 

While at Ohio State, Haskins and fellow Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa, of Alabama, regularly texted Bible verses to each other. Decision magazine reported that, as a pro Haskins liked to quote Isaiah 12:2: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation."  

Haskins talked of using his platform to benefit and inspire others, give back to his community, and be someone that they look up to. “That is something I feel like God would want for me to do,” he said. 

In a league known too often for its arrests of bad actors behaving poorly, Haskins was indeed a refreshing light.

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