ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Thomas Howard died early Monday morning 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. The driver of the other car, 64-year-old Zeng Long Liu of Hayward, also died in the crash.
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.
Witnesses say 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 Cincinnati.
"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. The feeling of shock and disbelief can be unbearable at times but all I can remember is all the good times that we had. ... 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. He also had one sack, 11 passes defensed and one fumble recovery that season.
Howard left the Raiders as a free agent in 2011 and started 15 games in his first season with the Bengals. Howard tore his ACL after his first game in 2012 and missed the rest of the season.
He signed with the Falcons in October and played two games with Atlanta before being cut.
Howard's 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. "He had two daughters. It is a horrible tragedy obviously for everyone involved. Really devastatingly sad in every way."
Associated Press writer Terry Collins in San Francisco contributed to this report