WASHINGTON — To many, Dwayne Haskins was known as a once highly touted NFL quarterback who had a standout career at Ohio State University and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Andres Lopez knew the former Washington NFL quarterback simply as "Dwayne," his Bullis Bulldogs football teammate, as well as an editor for the school newspaper.
Lopez and others were left shocked on Saturday when Florida Highway Police announced that Haskins, just 24 years old, died after being hit by a dump truck while crossing I-595 in South Florida. Haskins was preparing for the upcoming NFL season with his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.
Speaking to WUSA9 over Zoom on Saturday — as he studied abroad in Spain — Lopez said he heard the news from his brother during a phone call.
"He goes, 'I don’t know if you saw but Dwayne passed away'," Lopez said. "It’s very heartbreaking. It doesn't matter if you aren’t as close anymore or if you lost connection a little bit. I personally had a close relationship with him in high school. We had a lot of good times together.”
Meanwhile, on Bullis’ campus in Potomac Saturday afternoon, as thousands of athletes were competing in one of the largest track meets on the east coast, the community felt an aching pain at the news of Haskins’ death.
“I never imagined I'd be here having this conversation,” Joe Lee, the head track and field coach for Bullis, said in an interview with WUSA9. “We’re all still in shock.”
Lee recalled meeting Haskins, who graduated high school in 2016, on the Bullis track.
“He asked me [if he could] run track. I told him, ‘No, you're too slow,’” Lee said. “But fortunately, he had a future in football.”
Lee remembers well when Haskins began to emerge as a star quarterback while at Bullis.
“Tireless worker you know, he'd be out here early in the morning late at night working on his craft,” the coach said.
Lopez, who was a running back for the team, noted that when looking past Haskins’ obvious talent, the quarterback was always there for his teammates.
"He was very ambitious. He wanted a lot for the team. He wanted a lot from all of his players," Lopez said. "Just playing with him on the field you could just tell a difference in how he would throw a football and how he would lead the team.”
Lopez recalled when top colleges grew interested in Haskins’ talent. During moments in class, he said Haskins would need to step out to field calls from coaches interested in having him on their team.
"I was just in the hallway. I was like, ‘What’s up Dwayne?' He said, 'It’s SMU! Just got an offer. It’s a huge deal.' Then it just started becoming a thing," Lopez said. "It was every other class period. 'Hey, I got to take this. It’s Maryland. It’s Michigan State.”
Haskins' impact on others stretched far beyond the football field.
In a letter to the school community Saturday, Christian Sullivan, the head of school, wrote, that while Haskins “was known as a standout athlete at Bullis, Ohio State, and in the NFL … here at Bullis we also knew him as an honorable, smart, and family-oriented young man who graduated from college in three years.”
Aside from being an exceptional athlete, Haskins also succeeded in the classroom and was a sports editor for the Bullis Bulldog newspaper.
Lopez remembered how the quarterback would cheer others up on bad days and always seemed to have a good attitude.
"He had an infectious smile. It was a great smile," he said. "He was the kind of person who would leave a positive impact on you. It didn't matter if he saw you in the hallway, if you played with him three years or if you played with him for who knows how long.”
Following the sudden passing of Haskins, Lopez said he would best remember his former teammate as a leader on and off the field who didn't let his extraordinary talent get in the way of helping others.
"There were days no one wanted to go throw and we went in a snowstorm. Memories like that really bring it back," Lopez said. "It was very cool to have someone like that not only as a leader, as a quarterback, but as a friend.”
As he was surrounded by athletes on the Bullis campus, Lee said he knew Haskins would want the athletes to persevere despite the tragic news.
Though sports are what initially brought them together, it was the game of life, Lee says, that kept them bonded.
Lee recalled visits to Smashburger with Haskins.
“We just talking about life and just trying to figure this thing out which we're all trying to do,” Lee said.
The coach wishes he could say three words to the young man who meant so much to him.
“I love you, yeah, I love you,” Lee said.