ORONO – Just more than a week after the death of freshman defensive back Darius Minor, the University of Maine football team opened up preseason training camp with heavy hearts. Needless to say, there was little for the Black Bears not to be excited for hitting the field.
“This is, like, absolutely the best,” offensive coordinator Nick Charlton said. “I’ve been waiting for this so long.”
That’s a sentiment shared by everyone on the UMaine roster following Minor’s tragic passing last Tuesday. Charlton and defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman oversaw practice Wednesday while head coach Joe Harasymiak was down in Virginia attending Minor’s funeral services. Maine held a private ceremony of its own Wednesday morning, which fueled the squad before they warmed up for the first time this season.
“We know he’s out here watching over us, because he wanted to be out here too,” wide receiver Micah Wright said. “But it just felt like we needed to come out here today for him. Today was for him.”
The upperclassmen on the team have spent the last week supporting those who knew Minor closely. That, an emotional Kayon Whitaker said, has brought the Black Bears together.
“What happened to our teammate kind of brought the team a lot closer. It became more of a family, a brotherhood,” he said after practice. “And we have each other’s back a lot more than we did before.”
For many of those on the team, Wednesday was an escape from the tragedy of the past week, giving them a chance to move ahead rather than look back.
“This past week has been pretty hard on us,” defensive back Manny Patterson added. “So being able to come out here and do what we love and being able to keep Darius on our minds at the same time but be able to keep our mind busy.”
And while keeping Maine focused may have been a difficult task for Charlton, he said it’s beginning to feel a lot more like Orono.
“I think there was a lot of energy to get back on to the field. So it was a good day. It was a hard day. We put the work in. But it’s Day 1.”