Former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Thomas Howard died Nov. 18 following a high-speed car crash on a freeway in Oakland. The Alameda County Coroner’s office said the 30-year-old Howard was one of two men who died in the crash Monday.
According to police, Howard was driving a speeding BMW when he hit a big rig, flipped over the center divider and went head-on into a Honda traveling on the other side around 1 a.m., said Officer Daniel Hill, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. The driver of the Honda, 64-year-old Zeng Long Liu of Hayward, also died in the crash.
Witnesses told police the car was traveling at speeds between 100 mph to 110 mph as the car overturned, crossed a median and ended up in the southbound lanes of the freeway, where it sideswiped another car before landing on top of the Honda, Hill said. Hill said that alcohol is not being ruled out as a possible cause of the accident.
Howard played eight years in the NFL after being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round out of Texas-El Paso in 2006. He was most recently with Atlanta before getting released last week after playing two games this season. Howard played his first five seasons with the Raiders and two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Words really can’t describe how I’m feeling right now,” former Raiders teammate Kirk Morrison wrote on his Instagram account. “To get that dreaded phone call and hear someone tell you that one of your best friends is no longer with us is hard to grasp. …I didn’t lose a best friend or former teammate, I truly lost a brother today in Thomas Howard.”
Howard became an almost immediate starter when he joined the Raiders, making 62 starts in his first four seasons. His best season came in 2007 when he intercepted six passes and returned two of them for touchdowns.
Howard left the Raiders as a free agent in 2011 and started 15 games in his first season with the Bengals. He tore his ACL after his first game in 2012 and missed the rest of the season. Howard signed with the Falcons in October and played two games with Atlanta before being cut. His father, Thomas Sr., also played nine seasons in the NFL as a linebacker.
“Thomas was an absolutely terrific guy, one of the best and nicest guys I have ever come across,” said Howard’s agent, Andrew Kessler.