Lions pay tribute to Oxford: 'You hope to be a light for those people'
Detroit — All week, the Detroit Lions have been like everyone else, trying to process the senseless tragedy that befell Oxford this week, where authorities say a 15-year student went on a shooting rampage at the high school, killing four classmates and injuring several others in a matter of minutes.
The team planned tributes for Sunday's game against the Minnesota — T-shirts worn during the pre-game warmups, decals on the helmets and a moment of silence before kickoff — but coach Dan Campbell wanted to drive home what the team was playing for this week. On Saturday, he showed his team a brief video that provided insight on the each of the victims.
After the game, Campbell's jubilation after earning his first win as Detroit's head coach was muted as he paid tribute to Oxford, symbolically dedicating a game ball and reading out the names of each victim of the shooting.
"This game ball goes to whole Oxford community," Campbell said. "All those who were affected. And that being said, man, I just — I want us to not forget these names: 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’s a teacher. Those names for all those who will never be forgotten and they’re in our hearts and in our prayers."
Football, or any form of entertainment, can feel trivial at times like these. But Campbell reminded his players they offered that community an opportunity to temporarily escape the anguish of the past week.
"My thought was, ‘Hey man, if we can for three hours just ease their suffering a little bit, that’s worth it.'" Campbell said. "And so that’s kind of how I thought of this and we just did a great job. Players, they responded, played well."
Quarterback Jared Goff, who was in his second season with the Los Angeles Rams when a gunman shot up a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, killing a dozen before shooting himself, fought back tears when asked what this week and game mean to him.
"I’ll try not to get emotional but, you know, sometimes special things happen in special circumstances," Goff said in reference to the team's last-second victory. "I think you saw (Saturday) what Michigan did against Iowa and then us (Sunay) getting our first win in what is it, 12, 13 weeks? You never hope for a tragedy like this, but you hope to be a light for those people and a positive thing that they can have fun watching today.
"I hope that they were all watching today and were able to enjoy that win, and we can take their minds off it for whatever it may be, three hours," Goff said. "I think anytime we can do that, it’s a lot bigger than our sport, it’s a lot bigger than us. I think that today is one of those special circumstances that we were able to rise to the occasion and make something special happen.”