By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 15 years Dana Payne lived had meaning and an impact on those who touched.
If the packed sanctuary at the Millington First Baptist Church Aug. 28 didn’t prove that, the words of Pastor David E. Leavell drove that point home.
“Dana’s life had purpose,” he said. “Although he lived a short life, he didn’t live a life without purpose. Although he lived a short life, he didn’t live a life without significance.”
The life of Payne came to the forefront on Aug. 21 when he passed away from injuries suffered from a routine tackle during a Millington Trojan Football practice. The sophomore who started his football career with the Northaven Bulldogs made the high school team as receiver/defensive back. Payne was also a second-class petite officer in the JROTC and played the drums.
With dreams of going to the NFL and going to college, Payne always talked about his love of football.
His great uncle Frank Powell was first to take the microphone during the Homegoing Ceremony. He outlined how his Dana lived up to the title of GREAT NEPHEW. He used the words great, reward, energy, awesomeness, touching, naturally obedient, endurance, pleasing, hope, everlasting and wealth of joy.
Family friend Frank Sharp was next up directing a message to Payne’s teammates in the audience wearing their team jerseys. Sharp told the entire crowd about rides with Dana after practice and his dream of going to college and having a six-figure job.
“That dream now lives you to go be college educated and live that life,” Sharp addressed the team.
Payne had been a part of football teams most of his life winning a Super Bowl with the Bulldogs. Coach Ricky Jefferson started the program in Northaven. Jefferson took to the podium to reflect on his days with Dana.
He told the story of how after he moved up the road to play for the Trojans, Payne was still up at 7:30 Saturday morning to help him with he field. And one day under the Northaven scoreboard, Payne told his Coach he was going to invite him to be on the stage on hid draft day.
Jefferson stepped back from the podium and said, “I’m here, this his draft.” With his arms spread wide, “I can’t put it any simpler than that.”
Finally Leavell spoke to the audience, with his message geared toward comfort for the family and a life lesson for Payne’s peers.
Payne is survived by a host of family including his mother Tameka Smith, father Carlos Payne, brothers Jerfonzo and Thompson Smith, and grandparents Diana Smith, Jackie Payne, Bobbie Cox, Jeffery Pope, James Nash, David Craft and Mike Burse.
Leavell compared Payne’s 15 years on this earth to the 33 years Jesus lived saying a short life can touch a multitude of people and fulfill his purpose.
He then pointed out how Payne accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior when he was 9 years old. Leavell said with that act and the life he lived the six years after, he knows “Dana walked right off the football field into the arms of Jesus.”