This week of preparation for their Friday night game has been much more emotional than usual for the O’Bryant and Burke football coaches.
The schools will play the game in tribute to Odin Lloyd, the 27-year-old Dorchester resident whom authorities allege was murdered by former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in June.
Lloyd played football for O’Bryant in the early 2000s before playing semipro football for the Boston Bandits. Many of the Burke and O’Bryant coaches played and coached for both O’Bryant and the Bandits.
“For the guys, it will be another game because they didn’t know [Lloyd],” O’Bryant coach Kevin Gadson said before the season. “For the coaching staff and the Burke coaching staff, we knew him."
Burke coach Byron Beaman used to be an O’Bryant assistant coach and he played for the Bandits. O’Bryant assistant coach Mike Branch coaches for the Bandits and also played for them.
"So it’s going to be emotional," Gadson said.
Lloyd’s family is expected to attend the game.
Gadson said that while some people don't think it's a good idea to memorialize Lloyd because it might come out in trial that he wasn’t always an upstanding citizen, Gadson noted that the game is meant to comfort Lloyd’s family and honor the man that they knew.
“We’re honoring him as the person we knew and the player we knew and what he did for us,” Gadson said. “Now anyone can do anything but we want to remember him for what he did for our program and how he took to our coaching and what we tried to give him and we kind of think he was in that direction.”
Gadson said even though his players didn’t know Lloyd they will pick up some of the emotion from their coaches.
“They didn’t know him but they will get it through our spirit and our coaching during the week,” Gadson said. “And also like we do during Thanksgiving you’re playing for something bigger than just the game itself.”
He also said he will continue to use stories like Lloyd’s as an example for his players to stay on the right path.
“Even with [Lloyd] we did the same thing,” Gadson said. “We can always look back and say ‘You can learn from history’ but again we don’t have any control of anyone’s life. You always use examples of life lessons and that’s what we do as coaches. We’re teachers. Some of us we’re fathers, so it’s a constant thing.”
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