Categorized | Sports

Almost a year later, Trojan Football family bond grows stronger through Payne

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Dana Payne Tribute logo

Due to the heat, the Trojans moved practice indoors last week. Wrapping up the day, Head Coach Chris Michael and the coaching staff address the players about Jamboree and Week One preparations. The team broke down the final huddle with, "87."

Due to the heat, the Trojans moved practice indoors last week. Wrapping up the day, Head Coach Chris Michael and the coaching staff address the players about Jamboree and Week One preparations. The team broke down the final huddle with, “87.”

Wrapping up a recent practice, Millington Trojan Head Coach Chris Michael asked all his players to focus on growing spiritually, being dedicated in the classroom and taking care of family.
But from the hours of 2 to 5 p.m., Michael demanded the young men who will wear black and gold be fully focused and committed to “The Trojan Football Family.”
Entering his fourth season as the man in charge, Michael has been a part of the Trojan Football family as a player, assistant coach and supporter. Since being the head coach, he’s guided the Trojans to a District 14-3A championship in 2011 and second round appearance last season.
Although the wins have given Michael, his staff and players a since of pride, it was a tragedy that strengthened the Trojans’ bond. It was Aug. 21 of last year sophomore wide receiver Dana Payne went down on the practice field. After his breathing labored, Payne passed away.
Since that tragic moment, Payne has been laid to rest, the Trojans navigated an emotional season to a 6-6 record, Payne’s No. 87 has been retired and his memory lives on through Millington Central High School students, faculty and staff and his teammates.
“It’s a tight family group,” Michael said. “They all care for each other and they all look out for each other. Everybody knows the tragedy we went through last year and that pulled all the coaches and players closer together.
“It’s one of those things to where each and every day you go out there,” he continued. “The guys probably have a new found respect for the air they breathe everyday, the physical gifts they have and the gift they have of waking up every morning and being able to continue on with their life. At anytime it could be your time. Unfortunately Dana’s life was cut short. And we’ve all learned from that. We have to live our life day by day. We have to enjoy and take advantage of the things that are there for us everyday.”
Payne’s classmates are not the juniors on the team. And they are expected to contribute in 2013 taking on teams like Germantown, Brighton, Liberty, Montgomery Bell and Munford in non District 14-3A play.
Juniors like Patrick Macon, Angelo Pirtle, Josh Taylor, Vic Carasco and Demarius Curry were some of the Class of 2015 who played big minutes last season. And like there other teammates they did it for Dana.
Now the 2013 Trojans want to beat district foes like Bartlett, Bolton, Cordova, Kingsbury and Arlington to bring home the championship for Payne.
“We’ve kind of used his spirit as a motivating factor,” Michael said. “Everyday it’s either been hot or pouring down rain. They’re not complaining about it. ‘Man Dana is up there watching us. He’s got his eyes on us. Don’t be dogging it. Don’t be giving in to the heat. Don’t be pouting about going into the mud.’
“The spirit of him and his memory circulates around all the time,” he added. “I think it’s a nice and inspiring thing for us in this offseason going into this season.”
Michael said lining up on the practice field or on Friday night in the black and gold added a MCHS student/athlete to the brotherhood. And the death of Payne drove home to Michael how strong that bond is to him and his players.
“You lose a friend or family member, which he was, you’re not ever going to forget that,” he said. “You’re never going to completely get over that. But picking yourself up and continuing to live and move forward is important.
“If that were to happen to me or anybody else, we wouldn’t want our love one to not continue their lives and be depressed about everything,” Michael concluded. “You’ve got to keep living and moving forward. It’s there way to honor his memory and the spirit he had everyday he came out onto the field at practice.”

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