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Former Houston player Sam Hairston killed in Afghanistan

Former Houston linebacker and defensive end Sam Hairston, 35, died in combat in Afghanistan while serving in the Army.

Hairston, who played for the Cougars from 1997-2000, was killed in a small-arms battle Tuesday in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

Hairston was a paratrooper and platoon sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He joined the Army in 2003, following in the footsteps of his dad and one of his brothers, and re-enlisted about three years ago, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., reported. He originally was from the Fort Walton Beach area.

Hairston had been awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Meritorious Service Medal, and fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hairston played in 42 games in his college career, and had 55 tackles, four sacks, an interception and fumble recovery.

Hairston, who was 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds during his playing days, was an all-state defensive end and one of three players from his high school (Choctawhatchee) who signed with Houston in 1997.

Hairston is survived by his wife, Staff Sgt. Tawana Hairston, and his stepson, Hayden.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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