Millington Central team, coach still dealing with tragic loss - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Millington Central team, coach still dealing with tragic loss

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(WMC-TV) - Dana Payne's fatal accident on the Millington Central Football field was almost four weeks ago.  This past week was actually the first full week of practice the team has had since his death.

His coach tells us the loss was devastating.

It's Friday Night Lights at Millington Central, and normality has been difficult to find because number 87 isn't on the field.

That number is special now, retired in honor of Dana Payne.

"We're trying to find normal and routine which we haven't had," said Millington Central Head Coach Chris Michael.  "He wanted to know as a 10th grader what could he do to play. ‘Coach, what if I went to that position?  I know you are shallow in that position I can get in that position'," he added.

Even as a younger player, Coach Michael says Payne would have gotten that chance he wanted before the accident just four weeks ago, on this very field.  His teammates standing over him.

A major concern has been for the players involved in that tackle.  The coach tells me the one person who has helped them get rid of their guilt is Dana's mom.

"Obviously it's about the worst experience you could imagine for a player or coach to go through," said Michael.  "You couldn't think of something more devastating to happen," he added.

Coach Michael says Dana's mom told the players it wasn't their fault.  Instead, a tragic accident that happened as Dana did what he loved, where he loved doing it.

And his community loved him back, now showing their love on their wrists, the field and on their smiles as they heal though always remembering number 87.

The entire season has been dedicated to Dana Payne.  And, naturally, a lot of attention has been placed on the players and their healing, but tonight we could tell Coach Michael is still hurting.

Michael says he's leaning on his faith and the community, but the team thinks of Payne all the time.

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