HOUSTON -

Friends, family and University of Houston football fans are remembering a local soldier killed in action in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston, 35, was a platoon sergeant with A Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

Hairston died Aug. 12, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his unit was engaged by enemy small-arms fire.

"Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Hairston was an exceptional noncommissioned officer and a valued member of our team,” said Lt. Col. Chris Hockenberry, Hairston’s battalion commander. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. We will never forget him.”

Hairston joined the Army just three years after completing college at the University of Houston. He wore number 34, playing defensive lineman from 1997 to 2000.

On Cougar sports blogs, fans remembered Hairston as a hero on the battlefield and the football field.

Hairston was a highly-decorated soldier. He received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and several others.

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