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Former Oregon standout and Vikings rookie Khyree Jackson dies in car crash

Khyree Jackson, a recently drafted Minnesota Vikings cornerback, died early Saturday morning in a car accident at the age of 24. The team confirmed the news and Maryland State Police confirmed the details of the accident, which occurred in Prince George’s County.

Police said the crash also claimed the lives of Isaiah Hazel and Anthony Lytton, two of Jackson’s high school teammates. Hazel was the driver of the vehicle, according to the statement.

Investigators believe the car Jackson was riding in was struck by another vehicle attempting to change lanes at high speed. They believe alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the crash.

Jackson was drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round out of Oregon. And hours before the Vikings drafted Khyree Jackson in April, he was hanging around the mall. He was returning clothes. He was trying on other designer items. He was chatting with store managers, probably making them laugh.

Once the Vikings called him and told him they were going to pick him in the fourth round, he FaceTimed his mom, Ebbony.

“Mom, are you all watching?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Did you get the call?”

“Is everyone watching?” he asked again, the tone of his wry smile carrying through the phone.

“Wait,” Ebbony asked. “Are you still at the mall?”

She laughed. Her picture flashed on her family’s television. Ebbony screamed. As Khyree left the mall, heading home from Tysons Corner to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to celebrate, her mother recalled many of the moments. Driving through the desert to drop Khyree off at Arizona Western. Meeting with longtime Alabama football coach Nick Saban on Zoom. She curled up on the couch and shook her head. Tears. They fell relentlessly.

“I felt very happy,” he recalled a few months ago. “I felt very proud.”

Overwhelmed by the path Khyree had traveled. What he had navigated. His talent, his faith, helped him through it. The promise was undeniable. And it is all of that — a story destined to have a happy ending — that makes Saturday’s news so tragic.

“I am heartbroken by the loss of Khyree,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement Saturday. “As we got to know him during the pre-draft process, it became clear what goals Khyree wanted to accomplish both professionally and personally. His story was one of resilience.”

Jackson attended five schools and three junior colleges. He once quit football, worked at Chipotle, envisioned a pro career playing NBA 2K and even sliced ​​deli meats at Harris Teeter, where he was named grocery store manager of the month. An impromptu phone call from a coach at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas rekindled the football dream. There, he met former NFL cornerback Joey Thomas, who watched the 6-foot-4, 190-pound receiver wiggle his hips once before saying, “I could be a star cornerback.”

Khyree agreed… because of course she did.

“Some guys look at him and say, ‘I don’t want him,’” said Khyree’s high school coach, DaLawn Parrish. “Khyree doesn’t. He says, ‘Line everybody up.’ He thinks he was a five-star recruit.”

After one season at East Mississippi Community College, Alabama saw it that way. Saban set up a Zoom video conference with Khyree, Ebbony and Khyree’s father, Raymond. The Crimson Tide offered Khyree. He arrived on campus and held his own alongside highly touted prospects Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry.

Khyree stayed for two seasons and then transferred to Oregon, where he became a favorite of head coach Dan Lanning.

“If you were designing a team in ‘Madden,’ this is what you’d want the first one to look like,” Lanning said.

Drew Svodoba, a former member of the Alabama team, said: “If he can make it all work, I mean, this kid… I’m talking about an incredible talent.”

The Vikings sensed that, leading defensive pass rush coordinator Daronte Jones to meet with Khyree at the Senior Bowl. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores prioritized him in pre-draft sessions and the Vikings ultimately selected him. Khyree shared his story in a post-draft interview session with local media members.

Ebbony shared a phrase that she and Khyree used to say to each other.

“Just another chapter of what?” Ebbony asked.

“My story,” Khyree replied. “My story.”

Khyree showed promise in spring practice, and just this week, Vikings coaches texted him, sharing how much they believed he could contribute in the upcoming season.

“We were literally texting,” a Vikings coach said Saturday. “I’m crying.”

Required reading

(Photo: John E. Moore III / Getty Images)