For more than three days, the Millington Trojan Football team received prayers and well wishes from across the nation.
When news of Dana Payne death spread across the city, then Mid-South and across America, Millington Head Coach Chris Michael had the challenge of keeping his team together dealing with the tragedy.
On Aug. 21 Payne was tackled during a drill in practice. The 15-year-old sophomore died because of his injuries suffered from the hit on his way to the hospital in Downtown Memphis.
Since that moment, e-mails, phone calls and letters have been sent to the Trojan Football family. And after the Trojans won their season opener at Kirby 31-6, the host Cougars joined the Millington players at midfield for a prayer on behalf of Dana.
From Memphis to Eads, Friday was a chance for teams across the area to let the Trojans and the Payne family know they were in their thoughts. Briarcrest painted a black “D. P.” and the No. 87 under its logo at midfield. The Bartlett Panthers wore wristbands with the No. 87 to pay tribute to Payne who was to wear that number for the Trojans.
Payne’s teammates will honor him all season in many ways including having the No. 87 in a circle over their own numeral on the helmet.
With so many reaching out to show them support, Michael said the most love has come from Northaven and Millington, the places Payne called home.
“We love Millington,” he said. “And Millington has always loved this football team. Every Friday night when we are at home, they’re always there supporting our kids. We love them and we thank them for all their prayers, thoughts and well wishes. We just pray that they’ll continue to do that for us as we make it through this season.”
The Trojans will be home for the first time in 2012 to play the Panthers Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Michael said after the wonderful showing of black and gold at Kirby, he knows Millington will come out this week to honor Payne and keep supporting the Trojans.
“On Friday nights like tonight with a road game way down here at Kirby, they really turned out,” he concluded. “And that just made me smile to see all these people come out to support these kids and the Payne family tonight.”