What started at a vigil on the lawn of 795 Brandywine eventually turned into a celebration to honor the late Dana Payne.
“This is becoming a block party,” Dana’s Mother Tameka Smith said outside her Northaven home.
The large crowd composed of family, friends, classmates and teammates went from shedding tears of sorrow last Thursday night to laughing in the streets. Payne’s family and Millington Central High School students organized the tribute for 15-year-old sophomore who passed away Aug. 21 because of injuries from a tackle during practice.
The city of Millington and MCHS quickly paid tribute to Payne with fund-raisers and gold and black ribbons. Thursday it was the community’s, Payne grew up in, turn to celebrate his life.
The occasion started off somber with spiritual songs performed on the lawn by family members and Payne’s teammate Cazzie Foster. Smith spoke to the large audience before the lighting of candles.
Smith and family brought out large amounts of food to feed those in attendance. And as the large crowd started to share memories about Payne, the night transformed into a party to honor him.
Most talked about how Payne’s short life was filled by the game he loved including his former Northaven Bulldogs coach Randon
“We won a Super Bowl with Dana and his team,” he said.
Payne’s Bulldog team sparked a dynasty in Northaven with the Bulldogs winning four Super Bowls in a row. After turning 13, Payne moved up the ranks to Flag City.
“He went on to Millington Metro,” Fryerson said. “Everyday, he would come by, ‘I play for Millington Metro. You gonna come watch me play some games.’ He just kept me updated with his career.
“When he got to the ninth grade, ‘I play with the freshmen team,'” he continued. “‘I’m on the freshmen team.’ He made varsity and I was actually up at the weight room with him a couple of times. I can remember him coming by the fire station all the time keeping me updated on things and how he was doing in football.”
Fryerson said Payne was more than just a football player. He was someone Northaven could be proud of.
“I know it’s a cliché but he really was a good kid,” he said. “He made the good grades and he lived football. That’s all he thought about. He was dedicated all the way up from the Bulldogs to the Trojans. He was a great young kid.”
With the big turnout of true friends, Fryerson said it’s clear Payne was loved.
“He was a well-known kid and everybody liked him,” he said. “He always had a positive attitude. He always smiled and he lived football. You talked to him, he was going to bring up football some kind of way.
“Everybody in the community like him and as you can see everybody at school liked him,” Fryerson continued. “He was a good kid. It’s just a sad day, but everybody is rallying behind him, Bulldogs, Trojans and Northaven.”
Fryerson said Payne would have been a great MCHS student and Trojan.
“I know it meant a lot to him becoming a Trojan,” he said. “Every young Bulldog grows up watching the older former Bulldogs play for the Millington Trojans. That’s actually a big goal to make the Trojans Varsity Football team, play and be good up there.
“He had a bright future up there,” Fryerson concluded. “He just died young. He was a good athlete and he was going to be one of the future Trojan stars. It’s sad to lose somebody you know.”