Dan Campbell and Lions pay tribute to Oxford victims – .

Dan Campbell and Lions pay tribute to Oxford victims – .

The Detroit Lions hadn’t won a game in nearly a year (364 days to be exact). Dan Campbell, their rookie head coach, had never been victorious in Detroit. His quarterback Jared Goff, also new to the squad, was oh-iron as a Lion. Ditto for a bunch of teammates.
Detroit is the worst team in the NFL, the butt of jokes and frustration. When the Lions gave Minnesota the lead on Sunday afternoon, it looked more like the same. They were watching a humiliating, winless season until Goff unexpectedly called up a last-minute drive and threw a touchdown on the last play of the game.

Lions 29, Vikings 27.

Detroit won? Detroit won! It is now 1-10-1 on the season.

The players kissed. The fans applauded. It was a well-deserved moment of celebration, relief and respect, a heartwarming result in the midst of a long lost season.

Except Dan Campbell was not feeling well.

He stepped onto the post-game podium and his voice started to crack and his eyes started to fill with tears. He sniffled and continued to lower his eyes, perhaps to pull himself together.

That old big tight end, bruised, goatee and still with a lot of muscle on his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame, was about to collapse as he waved the ball the Lions had just used to win the game .

“First thing, I’ll start with that,” Campbell said. “This game ball goes to the entire Oxford community. Everyone who has been affected.

Jared Goff (16) celebrates with head coach Dan Campbell after defeating the Minnesota Vikings 29-27 to win their first game of the season on Sunday. (Photo by Rey Del Rio / Getty Images)

Dan Campbell is keen to say aloud the names of the Oxford victims

It was not a forced statement. It was not courtesy, no thoughts and prayers. Like so many others on the Detroit subway, Campbell was shaken, in a way he might not have foreseen, when on Tuesday an armed student reportedly opened fire inside the high school in Oxford, killing four classmates and injuring seven others.

The horrors of school shootings are nothing new in this country. There have been too many. There will be too many others.

This does not mean – and never should, ever – that everyone is not a shock to the system. This does not mean – and never should, ever – that the stories and images of the victims, otherwise happy and energetic children, are not terrible reminders of lives lost, of lost potential, of innocence lost through a nightmare. who we just won’t stop.

“Dude, I just want us to remember those names,” Campbell said, his voice startling.

He started to read quickly because that seemed like the only way to continue.

“Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Tate Myre, Phoebe Arthur, John Asciutto, Riley Franz, Elijah Mueller, Kylie Ossege, Aiden Watson and Molly Darnell, who is a teacher. “

Baldwin, St. Juliana, Shilling and Myre were all shot. The others were injured but are expected to survive.

Campbell was following the lead of Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald, who has sworn to only utter the name of the alleged shooter once (as required when criminal charges are introduced) in an effort to “Keep our focus on the victims”. She deliberately repeats the names of the deceased.

Later, Goff, the veteran quarterback, spoke in his own soft, hesitant voice, of how he hoped the team had provided a few moments of distraction.

“I try not to get emotional,” Goff said. “… You hope to be a light for these people, an outlet. … It’s much bigger than us. It’s much bigger than our sport.

Other University of Michigan Lions make small, moving gestures

Baldwin, 17, was an artist and proud big sister. St. Juliana, 14, a freshman, had played her first high school basketball game the night before. Shilling, 17, was cited as an exceptional student who held three jobs helping out around the house. Myre was a soccer and wrestling star who some students say rushed to the shooter in an attempt to save others.

“These names will never be forgotten,” Campbell said. “They are in our hearts and our prayers and in all families, not to mention all those who have been touched by it all; classmates, brothers, sisters, cousins, teachers, everyone, coaches.

The emotion was palpable. Rawness. Sadness. Maybe even anger. Campbell and his wife Holly have a son and daughter, although you don’t have to be a family man to be touched. It’s also the realization that something so preventable still isn’t.

Having these names read by an NFL head coach at a post-game press conference is both a small and a big thing. No, that won’t bring anyone back. Neither a sticker on a helmet or a t-shirt with the name of the school nor a minute of silence before the match. But it is something. It’s a chance to say that these kids are everyone’s kids, that this tragedy is our whole tragedy, that Oxford is everywhere.

It’s Lions safety Jalen Elliott, a native of Virginia, who walks into Ford Field with a bespoke jersey bearing Myre’s name and number.

This is New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, from nearby Dearborn, in an Oxford football t-shirt during his midweek press conference 600 miles away .

“I wanted to recognize Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling and Tate Myre,” Saleh said, offering another ringtone of their names.

It’s the University of Michigan that brings Myre’s family into the draw for their Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday night and wears a crest honoring all four victims. It included “TM 42” – Myre’s initials and the uniform number.

“He’s a hero,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Then the Wolverines scored 42 points in the victory.

Little things. But little things help connect a community. Little things spread stories about these kids so big and loud that they can drown the shooter publicity. The little things bring people together in a world full of too many divisions and loneliness.

Know it: Dan Campbell won his first game as Lions head coach on Sunday. He should have smiled. He should have celebrated.

Instead, he cried for a group of people he’s never met and then read their names because it just can’t be done enough.

It was the biggest victory of the day.


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