"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Sam Hairston and express our greatest condolences to his wife, Tawana, son, Hayden, extended family and wide circle of friends. Sam was not only a valuable member of the Houston family but an American hero," Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Mack Rhoades said. "He is an inspiration to all of us and will always be remembered as a great Cougar. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sam's family and friends.
Hairston, 35, had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart.
Hairston appeared in 42 games at linebacker and defensive end with the Cougars from 1997-2000, recording 55 tackles, four sacks and an interception.
- Chris Johnson