I can still remember November 11, 2015 like it was yesterday.

I remember every detail of that day...It was a Thursday, two days before the State Championship game, and our team was doing our last walk through before the game. I remember it was my sophomore year in high school, and I remember wearing a cutoff t-shirt to practice that day.

As I stood at the 45-yard-line of our practice field, I was preparing for the biggest game of my life. I can't say it was just a normal day, because it wasn't every day you played for a state title. And then moments later, I suddenly didn't care about football at all.

I stood on that practice field as the news was relayed to me that Demitri Allison had died.

The young man that my family had taken in when I was 12 years old was suddenly gone. The same brother that had ran routes for me and was my biggest fan was suddenly gone.


I left the practice field right then and there. I remember driving home and just being in shock. We have a dock that overlooks this lake at our house, and I went out to the edge of the dock and just looked out over the water, trying to make sense of what had just happened.

And that was one of the hardest parts, because there wasn't anyway you could make sense of it.

Demitri always had a smile that lit up the room. I never saw him down, probably because he was so focused on everybody else. He always seemed to brighten up your day, and he was just the coolest person to be around. Whenever you were struggling with something, Demitri was usually the cure to your problems.

And yet the nicest guy in the world was responsible for taking his own life.

I sat there on the dock, and I told myself that there is a plan. Sometimes we don't know what the plan looks like, but God has a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the light is so dim that some of us - like Demitri - can't even see it, that light is still there.


At some point that evening, my thoughts eventually gravitated back toward the situation around me. I had dozens of teammates who were playing in a state championship in 48 hours, and they needed a quarterback to lead them. My coach told me that I didn't have to play in the game, but I knew the Lord had given me the ability to play football, and I didn't think my brother would want me to waste the opportunity.

So with a heavy heart and my mind on Demitri, I took the field. But on that night I didn't just write his initials on my wristband - I took the field wearing Demitri's old # 10 jersey.

I've been wearing it ever since. Considering how I played that night, I don't plan on changing numbers ever again.

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Thomas Hager