Former NFL linebacker Thomas Howard, cut last week by the Atlanta Falcons, was killed early Monday in a high-speed traffic collision near his home in Alameda, Calif.
The Alameda County Coroner's Bureau and spokesperson Dan Hill of the California Highway Patrol, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Howard was one of the victims after notification was made to the family.
Howard, 30, who was drafted out of Texas-El Paso by the Oakland Raiders in 2006, played five years for the Raiders.
Hill said the incident began with a BMW traveling 100-110 miles per hour, according to witnesses.
The witnesses said the driver of the BMW lost control and collided with the rear of a semi-truck, Hill said. The force of the impact caused the BMW to catapult into the opposing lanes, where it struck a Chevrolet Monte Carlo and then crashed onto a Honda CRV, Hill said.
Both Howard and the driver of the Honda, Zeng Long Liu, 64, of Hayward, Calif., were killed at the scene, Hill said.
Howard, a 6-3, 230-pound linebacker from Lubbock, Texas, was taken in the second round of the 2006 draft by the Raiders. He played with them through 2010, then was with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 and 2012.
He signed last month with the Atlanta Falcons and was active for two games, but was released last Tuesday.
"It is shocking and very sad," Texas-El Paso athletics director Bob Stull said about Howard on the school's sports department web site.
"His story was inspiring. He came here as a walk-on defensive back and through hard work and dedication developed into one of the greatest linebackers in school history. He was enjoying a tremendous NFL career.
"More than anything, though, Thomas was a fine young man, personable and engaging. He always had a smile on his face. He returned to El Paso frequently and was always eager to give back to UTEP. He was a superb alum and friend of the university. It's just hard to believe that he's gone. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Friends were remembering Howard on Twitter:
* Retired NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman @shawnemerriman38m -- "RIP Thomas Howard and those involved in the tragedy #NFL #GodBless"
*Former NFL defensive back Stanford Routt @SRoutt2620m -- "@ThomasHoward Was a pleasure playing with you. You were a great teammate,even better person and father! U will be missed, much love bro #RIP"
*Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski @bgradkowski5 "very sad day a good buddy&teammate thomas howard passed away today! Please keep his family in ur prayers what a great guy words can explain!"