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Vikings rookie quarterback Khyri Jackson among three killed in crash

Vikings rookie quarterback Khyri Jackson among three killed in crash

Minnesota Vikings rookie Khairy Jackson and two former college football players were killed in a car accident overnight, according to Maryland State Police. Jackson was 24.

Jackson died after a three-vehicle crash that occurred at 3:14 a.m. Saturday in Prince George’s County, according to police. Isaiah Hazel and Anthony Leighton Jr. — former players who were Jackson’s high school teammates — were also killed in the crash, police said.

Hazel, 23, played at Maryland and Charlotte, while Leighton, 24, played at Florida State and Penn State.

Police said Hazel was driving a Dodge Charger with Jackson in the passenger seat when she was struck by an Infiniti Q50 that was trying to change lanes at high speed. The Charger veered off the road and struck several tree trunks.

Police said Jackson and Hazel were pronounced dead at the scene, while Leighton was taken to the hospital before being pronounced dead by hospital staff.

Neither the driver nor the passengers of the Infiniti Q50 nor the driver of the third vehicle were injured. Investigators believe alcohol may have played a role in the crash, police said, adding that charges are pending.

Jackson was selected by the Vikings in the fourth round of this year’s draft and was considered a contender to start at cornerback.

“We are devastated to learn of the passing of Khairy Jackson in a car accident overnight,” the Vikings said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with Khairy’s family, friends, teammates and coaches, as well as all of the victims of this tragic accident.”

Jackson played his final season of college football at Oregon State, and Ducks coach Dan Lanning was among those who praised Jackson on social media.

He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection for Oregon in 2023. Prior to joining the Ducks, Jackson played two seasons at Alabama under head coach Nick Sabin. He had given up football after high school before returning to the sport at a community college and rising to the Division I level.

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“I am completely devastated by this news,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said in a statement. “Khayri brought an infectious energy to our facility and our team. His confidence and charisma immediately drew his teammates to him. In the short time we spent together, it was clear that Khayri would develop into a great professional football player, but what was even more impressive was his desire to be the best person he could be for his family and those around him. I am at a loss. My heart goes out to Khayri’s family, friends, teammates and coaches.”

Jackson became an instant favorite among Vikings fans after describing his long journey from high school to the NFL draft. Speaking to Minnesota reporters after the draft, he said he was ineligible after graduating from Wise. [Maryland] He graduated from high school in 2017. He spent time at three different junior colleges, while being away from the game for two seasons, before landing at Alabama in 2021.

During that time, he said, he worked at a Harris Teeter grocery store, and at one point won employee of the month. “I told my mom at one point that I was going to work at a grocery store,” he said. He later seriously considered joining the NBA 2K League.

“When I finished my first college,” he said, “I was home for about six months, but I told my friends I was still in school. I was home for six months straight and no one knew. It was kind of eating away at me, and then I finally told my friends. That moment really told me, man, if I’m embarrassed to tell them, I might want to go out and try to do it again instead of sitting here and getting angry.”

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Jackson said he has no regrets about his journey to American football, and then to the NFL.

“But I wouldn’t change that in any way,” he said. “I feel like it taught me a lot of perseverance. It helped me become the man I am today. I feel like I don’t take shortcuts. I accept everything as it is and I don’t question a lot of things. I feel like that mentality came from JUCO and being at the bottom and seeing what it’s like to have nothing and then all the stuff goes to some of the top programs.”

Information from ESPN’s Kevin Seifert is included in this report.