Thursday, July 3, 2008
A few weeks back coach Devin Rutherford struggled with a decision, whether to stay at Byhalia or leave for White Station.
One of the reasons he had difficulty making up his mind was high school football players like Terrell Richmond.
“He and some other kids were the reason why it took me so long to decide,” said Rutherford, his voice cracking on the other end of the telephone. “This is a tragedy. He was a great kid. He was a joy to be around.”
Terrell Richmond, age 17, was found dead at his home Tuesday of last week. He had been murdered – shot in the back of his head.
A lot of other words, besides tragedy, come to mind, too – like senseless.
Rutherford accepted the head coaching job at White Station, closer to his home, but his memories of one of his all-time favorite players, Terrell Richmond, are extra special memories.
He was a starter on both sides of the football for the Indians last year. He played tackle. He and his teammates had a season to remember. They finished 8-4 and advanced to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“Good linemen in ninth and 10th grades are hard to come by,” Coach Rutherford said. “Terrell was one of the building blocks for this team.
“He was an extremely hard worker. He bought totally into the team concept.”
Toward the end of Rutherford’s tenure, he said Terrell Richmond had told him he was working a job but he wouldn’t miss practice.
“He told me he got his schedule worked out and that he would be able to do this and get to practice,” Rutherford said.
“He had taken a leadership role among our offensive linemen. He would actually draw up plays and teach our younger linemen. He was taking big ownership in the upcoming season.”
Large numbers have paid tribute since the awful incident. A memorial service was held Sunday at the school. Visitation was Monday of this week at Gillespie Funeral Home in Olive Branch. His funeral service was held on Tuesday of this week at St. Paul Baptist Church in Byhalia with burial at St. Paul Cemetery.
“Many people were affected by this tragedy,” Coach Rutherford said, “and that’s a testament to Terrell’s life and his character.”
I did not know Terrell Richmond personally. But I knew his team. And my thoughts this week turned to one particular game. I thought back to the Byhalia-Senatobia football contest on October 12 of last year. I was on the sideline, covering the big game.
As my story in the October 18 edition of The South Reporter said, the Indians shocked the Warriors 38-37, setting off a huge celebration on the home field. It was called, by Coach Rutherford, the “biggest win in school history.”
Byhalia, which just renewed high school football in 2002, had stunned Senatobia, a tradition-rich football school. The Warriors won the state title back in 2004.
I had never witnessed a better high school football game.
As Coach Rutherford said this week when I talked with him, Terrell Richmond and the other Byhalia Indians on the 2007 squad exemplified the word team. That teamwork was more obvious than ever when they beat Senatobia. And Terrell Richmond was an integral part of that success.
Sadly, he will never get to block against an opposing player again. He will never be able to share his wisdom with a younger Indian. He will never get to celebrate another victory with his teammates.
But he will be a great inspiration – for this group of young men will pull together even more when football practice starts again in just a few weeks.
They will be playing with heavy hearts but with fond memories of Terrell Richmond – their friend, their classmate, their teammate and one of their leaders.
And they’ll have fun playing, just like Terrell Richmond did.
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