The Detroit Lions finally made good on their promise to the Oxford, Michigan, community.
The Lions officially delivered the game ball from their first win of last season to Oxford High School on Thursday, a pledge the team made following a mass shooting at the high school in November.
#Oxford HS AD Tony DeMare received the game ball from the #Lions’ 1st win of the 2021 season today, which was dedicated to the community after the tragic high school shooting in Nov. It’ll start off on display at the HS before being shared groups and organizations around town. pic.twitter.com/ifAjok0PkX
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) April 28, 2022
"11/30 has a different meaning in Oxford now. It's not time to go to bed or get ready for lunch. Those numbers will never be forgotten for the honor of everybody involved," former Lions vice president of communications and Oxford resident Bill Keenist said after delivering the ball, via ESPN.
"The football will remain forever as another symbol of that."
A 15-year-old student allegedly opened fire and shot 11 people at Oxford High School — which sits just north of Detroit — on Nov. 30, according to The New York Times. Four students were killed. The alleged shooter was charged with one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter after a brief manhunt, too.
Michigan wore special patches in the Big Ten championship game just days after the shooting, and honored Tate Myre — a football player who was one of the four students killed in the shooting.
The Lions then won their first game of the season after wearing decals and honoring the high school at the game by beating the Minnesota Vikings 29-27. Coach Dan Campbell then immediately recognized the Oxford community after the win, the team's first in nearly a full calendar year.
“First thing I’m going to start with this,” he said after the win in December. “This game ball goes to the whole Oxford community. All those that were affected.”
The ball will start at the high school, and will then rotate around at different spots in the community.
"I hope it represents to them just to never quit and that fight because I feel like with that shooting that went down, I feel like a lot of students could maybe become hopeless or lose motivation," Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who caught the winning touchdown in that game, told ESPN. "For us, that game would literally describe what they're going through. We were [0-10-1] and figured out a way to win. A lot of people thought we were going to go winless all season, so we figured out a way to win at the end, and for me, it was a message to them to never quit.
"It's always hope, even in the worse times," he added. "There's always something to look forward to. You've just got to keep pushing, keep working, so I think it was just perfect how everything played out with Coach Campbell giving them that ball. Hopefully it gives them motivation moving forward."