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Always in our Hearts

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Dana Chris Michael talkDana Chris Michael walks

Dana Payne's grandmother Diana wears a shirt in his honor.

Dana Payne’s grandmother Diana wears a shirt in his honor.

Once the Millington Trojans wrapped up practice last Wednesday, it was time to remember why August 21 will always be an important date to the program.
It was a year ago on their home field they lost teammate and friend Dana Payne. Just a sophomore, the 15-year-old football player died from injuries he suffered from a tackle at practice. On the first anniversary of his passing, Millington Central High School Principal Mark Neal, members of the Trojan coaching staff, players, cheerleaders, students, friends, supporters, the Northaven community and Payne’s family came for a candle tribute to No. 87.
Aug. 21, 2012 changed Tameka and Diana’s life forever. Tameka received news her son was injured during practice and then later that night he had passed away. The news devastated her mother, Dana’s grandmother Diana.
Since that day, Diana has been right be her daughter’s side supporting her as she also grieved over the loss of Dana. The Smiths arrived to the Millington Football Stadium on Wednesday surrounded by friends and family to remember Dana a year later.
“It just shows the true love and that Dana will be in our hearts forever,” Diana said of the ceremony. “It let’s us know that Dana is still remembered and never will be forgotten.”
The Trojan Football program is making sure Dana will always be remembered with the retiring on his No. 87 earlier this year. And around the stadium there are several reminders of Dana including a large golden 87 painted on the Millington Fieldhouse doors.
“That’s special,” Diana said. “We know if its 87 and it’s at Millington — that’s Dana. Dana is always here and this is where he wanted to be. This is where he took his last breath. This is it.”
Diana and the family have been back to the place Dana took his last breath several times to root on his teammates. And they plan on showing up loud and proud for Trojan games in 2013.
In contract to rowdy Millington Football fans on a Friday night, the atmosphere Wednesday under the blazing sun was calm and reflective as Young Life Minister Luke Sadler addressed the crowd gathered speaking on the type of child Dana was and his connection with Christ.
Before Sadler spoke, the Millington Cheerleaders McKenzie Morrow, Erica Johnson, Briana Atkins, Kala Lemon, Angel Davis, De’Anna Gibbs, Erin Brown, Tia Crawford and Ashlee Fleming lit the candled in front of the Millington Fieldhouse.
Diana thanked the players and coaches wearing a shirt with photos of Payne.  Tameka was last to address the team encouraging to go out and have a great season in honor of her son. She led the players in a chant playing tribute to Dana.
Tameka and player released black and gold balloons in honor of Dana. As those balloons floated off into the sunny sky, emotions and thoughts of Dana flowed on the field.
“I cry daily,” Diana concluded. “But I look up at his picture on my wall and he reminds me that it will be OK. No matter what I’m going through, he lifts up my spirit. I know he’s in a better place. It can’t get no worse than this. And I know Dana was pure, so I know he’s in Heaven watching over us.”

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