Dwayne Haskins’ death hit the football world hard. But for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it also hit close to home. Chase Claypool was one of the last people to see Haskins, and that fact made grieving his death all the more difficult. Claypool opened up about it on the I Am Athlete podcast, joining Brandon Marshall, Pacman Jones, and Marshawn Lynch to talk about Haskins’ life and his untimely death.
“I feel like I failed him,” Claypool told the guys. “I feel like I could have changed the outcome and that’s why it was so heavy. I was close. I was a minute away from stopping it essentially. From changing the outcome.”
Claypool, Haskins, and other Steelers teammates joined Mitch Trubisky at his house in Florida to train the offseason. For Trubisky, it was a chance to get to know his new lockermates. Though Trubisky’s signing potentially threatened Haskins’ place on the roster, he still accepted the offer to train and get better. Haskins was killed as he was reportedly on his way to the airport after his car ran out of gas, leading Haskins to try and cross the highway. He was hit by a dump truck and killed. Haskins was just 24 years old.
“I think about him every day. I only knew him for just over a year. Obviously the cliché, you never know how much someone means to you until they’re gone. But being with him in his final moments and like seeing who he was as a person, just like in his purest form, that’s tough when you’re right there.”
Shortly after his death, Claypool tweeted out an emotional video of him on Haskins, showing a vulnerable side of athletes the public typically doesn’t see.
During the podcast, he briefly talked about why he decided to post the video.
“I know that video’s gonna come up. People are gonna clown me. But if I could have helped one person through tragedy, maybe save one life or have one person reach out to me and I can just have a conversation with them, then I’m cool.”
Claypool said he was also motivated to post the video after the personal tragedy he’s dealt with. His older sister Ashley died when Claypool was a teenager and he has a tattooed message on his arm to remember her, concluding with the words “until we meet again.”
Pittsburgh has done their best to honor Haskins with a large turnout for a memorial service held after his death. The Steelers have dealt with far too much tragedy in recent years. Tunch Ilkin losing his battle with ALS, Darryl Drake’s death in 2019, Stephon Tuitt’s brother killed in a hit-and-run last summer, Ryan Shazier’s life-threatening spinal injury that ended his football career. It’s a heavy weight to carry, and head coach Mike Tomlin has been there for it all. Claypool relayed the message Tomlin sent after Haskins’ death.
“I think Coach’s biggest thing is he just didn’t talk about football at all. At the end of the day, it’s really not about football, right? It’s about your brothers, your family, people you love. He just said to never take anything for granted, especially when it comes to life.”
Tomlin has been and will remain the figurehead on the team, especially in an offseason that’s seen so much change. If there’s a coach to get a team through difficult moments, and 2022 will be challenging for a bunch of reasons, it’s Tomlin.
Future actions will speak more than words, but Claypool seems more mature than he was a year ago. That growing up has come under difficult and unimaginable circumstances, but Claypool has consistently pointed to being a better and more vocal leader this season. Pittsburgh’s offense could use all the help in that department that they can get. And a more mature Claypool may improve his on-field play. On a personal level, 2022 is a big year for him.
Check out the entire conversation, which spans a variety of topics, below.