Friday nights spent under stadium lights are supposed to consist of tackles and touchdowns. Not tears and candlelight vigils. Yet, the community gathered together to mourn the loss of Reggie Garrett Jr. and to celebrate his life.

The field grew silent as the family walked in. The football team, locked arm in arm, followed behind the family. Principal Hutcherson Hill took the podium and spoke briefly to the young people about the legacy Garrett left behind.

“I’d like to speak to the young people in the audience,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if your high school, middle school, elementary. Doesn’t matter what district you come from. Doesn’t matter what race, doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor or in between. When you look in the mirror, when you look at yourself every day, before you get your day started, ask yourself are you giving 112 percent? Because that’s what this young man did.”

Garrett was a young man with many admirable qualities, but one that stands out most with all those that knew him is the respect he had for others.

“This young man walked with respect. He was an honorable young man,” Hill said. “He treated everyone with respect. If there’s one thing that I hope our young people remember, you truly want to uphold his legacy, then you’ve got to do it 112 percent. Nothing less will do.”

Coach Dan R. Hooks, coach of the West Orange-Stark High School football team read several letters from football coaches, both college football and pro-football. These coaches gave words of encourage to the Mustang football team in this difficult time.

“I knew Reggie. I’ve known him since [he was] a little bitty boy,” Hooks said. “He wasn’t perfect, but he was close. He was a very, very good kid.”

“Reggie Garrett had vision,” Coach Mark Foreman, another coach for the WO-S Mustangs. “He looked to the future with passion. He had passion for his family, for education and you could tell that.” He explained that Reggie was doing homework before a game one night. When asked why, Garrett replied it’s because he had a test the next week and really needed to study. “He had a passion to be the best student he could be.”

“He was so care-filled as a school leader, as a serious scholar, as a tremendous athlete and as a wonderful young man, esteemed and loved by all, by everyone who knew him,” said Ken Wernig, senior English teacher and dual-credit instructor. Garrett was a talented, creative, hard-working scholar athlete.

Many have said that Garrett took extremely good care of his body. Wernig commented on Garrett’s meticulous nature on taking care of himself. “There are not many high school students who can boast of drinking only water and Snapple. “

“How proud any family would rightly be to have such a son, such a grandson, a brother, a nephew and a cousin,” Wernig said. “How proud is our whole community, our city, our state, our nation to have had Reggie living among us.”

Many from the community volunteered their time to go into WO-S High School to help the students with the grieving process. Pastor Ronnie Crockett Sr., from Mount Olive Baptist Church, was one of those very much appreciated volunteers. Pastor Crockett brought words of comfort to Garrett’s family and friends. He encouraged all to read Psalm 30:5, which is “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

“We can make it through the night,” Pastor Crockett said.

Many students gave testimony on how Garrett touched their lives and how they will continue on by the same strength that Garrett once gave them. Tragedy struck this community with a force so unseen and so unexpected, but the community has rallied together to support each other in the darkest of times.

Just as the sun set on the football field this night, so has it set on his life. Reggie Garrett’s life may have ended, but his spirit, his loyalty and his love for the WO-S Mustangs will live on.

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers