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Former Falcons LB Killed In Car Accident

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Thomas Howard will be missed not only by the UTEP Miners, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, but by countless NFL players and fans as well. Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images.
Thomas Howard will be missed not only by the UTEP Miners, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, but by countless NFL players and fans as well. Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images.

Former NFL linebacker and UTEP standout Thomas Howard died early Monday after a high-speed collision near his home in Alameda, CA. According to Alameda County Coroner's Bureau spokesperson Dan Hill, both Howard and the driver, Zeng Long Liu, were killed on impact. Hill states that a witness saw a BMW traveling 100-110 mph when it collided with a semi-truck. The impact then caused the vehicle to veer off into opposing traffic and struck a couple more vechiles.

Drafted out of Texas-El Paso in the second round of the 2006 draft, the 6-3, 230-pound linebacker played for the Oakland Raiders until 2010. Howard then joined the Cincinnati Bengals for two more seasons before he signed on with the Atlanta Falcons last month. Howard was active for two games before the team released him last week in order to make room for LB Sean Witherspoon's return to the lineup from injury.

In college, Thomas started off as a walk on defensive back. He rose to become one of the greatest players in UTEP history, ranking third in career tackles for losses (34) and tied for seventh in sacks (13). Howard made 296 tackles in 48 career games. In addition to his accolades on the field, he was also well known for the things he did off the field, espeically after he left UTEP. For example, Howard presented scholarships to walk ons on the Miners football team for the last two years.

"More than anything, though, Thomas was a fine young man, personable and engaging,"  said UTEP athletic director Bob Stull on the school's athletic department website. "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."

Several players and former teammates also expressed their love for Howard through Twitter.

  • Retired NFL LB Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman): "RIP Thomas Howard and those involved in the tragedy #NFL #GodBless"
  • Former NFL CB Stanford Routt (@SRoutt26): "@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 QB 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't explain!"

Rest in peace, Thomas Howard. Thank you for making great contriubtions to your alma mater through your work ethic, play and graciousness in giving back. We also appreciate you for giving NFL teams seven years of soild performances.