Just days away from his 25th birthday, JoJo Nicolas tweeted that he was starting his celebration at a South Beach night club.
“Kickin off the bday turn up week at Mansion with my brotha,” wrote the former University of Miami football player around 2 a.m. Tuesday. He also posted a picture from another bar on Instagram.
But what began as a celebration for his March 3 birthday ended with a devastating crash early Tuesday morning as Nicolas’ gray Lexus sedan crashed into the back of an 18-wheeler as he headed out of Miami Beach.
The horrific crash left the sedan wedged under the truck, paralyzed traffic for hours and left Nicolas clinging to life Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Miami Beach detectives looked into possible causes including speed, alcohol and texting, according to Miami Beach spokeswoman Vivian Hernandez.
“During this extremely difficult time for JoJo and his family, our Miami family extends our prayers to them and our hope for his recovery,” said Canes football coach Al Golden, who along with family and friends stayed with him at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.
“He is a big part of our U family and all of us are pulling for him.”
When word spread that Nicolas, a former Canes defensive back who was on the team from 2007-11, was injured, prayer messages started popping up on social media sites.
“Prayers up for Jojo Nicolas involved in a serious car accident !!!!!!” one person tweeted.
DeMarcus Van Dyke, who played with Nicolas at UM and recently signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, said that it “was a sad situation.”
“I saw him last month,” said Van Dyke, who shared an apartment for two years with Nicolas and said he might have been working at a post office most recently. “I think he was still training and trying to get back into football.”
Several R.I.P. posts spread on different sites throughout the day until his family took to his Instagram account, saying “Jojo is not dead.” As of Tuesday night, Hernandez said there was no change in his condition.
Nicolas, who was featured in a 2011 Miami Herald story after he lost his baby son, is an alumni of Homestead High. In the story, Nicolas opened up about how hard it was to lose his baby, who was born prematurely, while keeping his commitment to the team.
According to Van Dyke he has since had another son.
In May 2012, he signed with the New York Giants as a rookie free agent, but was dropped in Aug. 28. He described himself on Twitter as “Chasing my NFL Dream.”
On Tuesday, police got the first call of a crash on the MacArthur Causeway near Alton Road just after 5 a.m., Hernandez said.
She said it appears the refrigerated food distribution truck was at a red light, about to go, when the Lexus crashed into its rear.
Rescue workers pried off the roof of the sedan to free Nicolas. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. All lanes of traffic heading west had to be shut down for the investigation, but were reopened just after 11 a.m.
Traffic heading eastbound moved slowly, with people sticking phones out of their windows to snap pictures and capture video.
Giants safety Antrel Rolle wished his former teammate a speedy recovery on Twitter.
“Everyone please send your prayers to JoJo,” he said.
Miami Herald photojournalist Walter Michot and sports writer Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.