Last week on September 4th Kadin Lee Roberts-Day (KRD), a sophomore at Joplin High School collapsed in the gym during football practice and died from cardiac arrest. When someone dies unexpectedly, especially that young, it’s difficult to process. Both of my kids attend this school and didn’t know Kadin very well but that didn’t matter because the impact of his passing in this small community was felt in a profound way by all, no matter who you are or how well you knew KRD. That’s the bad part of what happened last week, but it’s not the entire story.
High School football is alive and well in Joplin and we have a really solid team this year; maybe one of the best ever. On Friday we were supposed to face off against our arch-rival, the Webb City Cardinals. The Cardinals have a 274-25 win/loss record under coach John Roderique who has been named Coach Of The Year 11 of his 23 seasons and has lead his team to 11 Missouri Class 4 State Championships. Not bad right? These guys live and breathe football and our Joplin Eagles have not won a game against them since 1990, and this year, we had to play them at home and we haven’t beaten them in their stadium since 1941. Since KRD died on Wednesday the administrators thought they should give our kids as much time to grieve as possible so they pushed the game from Friday to Saturday, so now we were the only high school football game in the area being played that night. It was going to be a packed house.
To add even more meaning to this story, Kadin’s mother LaShanda, joined her son’s football team in a moment of silence at the school. After the prayers and lots of tears, she told the team that her son was always talking about how much he wanted to beat Webb City. The Eagles were torn apart after the loss of their teammate and the coaches were suffering just as bad. So it really wasn’t a question of beating Webb, it was more about holding it together long enough to get through the game. But now they had a purpose.
It was standing room only with over 7,500 people filling the seats. Some parents got together and made up t-shirts to honor KRD’s memory so it was a sea of red in the visitor and home sections of the stadium. The Webb City community was mourning the loss right alongside Joplin and blew us away with their support. Cheerleaders stayed up all night baking cookies to sell for $1 so they could raise money to pay for the funeral. The 50/50 pot was donated to KRD’s family. And when the Joplin Eagles took the field that night, there wasn’t a single person from Webb or Joplin sitting down. Everyone in the stadium was on their feet clapping for the Eagles team. (To anyone from Webb City that happens to read this post, I want you to know that your kindness that night made a HUGE impact on all of us from Joplin so THANK YOU for that.) Both teams met mid-field for a group prayer, after that there were many hugs and handshakes followed by the first play of the game which ended in a penalty. In a sign of solidarity, Joplin took the field short one player as a symbolic gesture for their missing man, and Webb City declined the penalty. More tears. Game on.
Joplin knew they were going to have to play the game of their life to beat the Cardinals and it started out just as we needed it to. The Eagles drove the ball 71 yards ending in a 6-yard touchdown pass, followed by a fumble recovery and another touchdown for Joplin. At half-time, the score was 28-7 Eagles, but we knew that it wouldn’t be enough to win because Webb is just that good. Sure enough, the Cardinals came back strong in the second half, getting within a touchdown. With 5:47 left in the game, Isaiah Davis broke a 47 yard run for a first down but we ended up that drive with a 4th and 14 with three minutes remaining; plenty of time for the Cardinals to score. In the end, Blake Tash passed the ball to Zach Westmoreland who brought it in for a 15-yard gain and the first down we needed to run the clock out. Joplin Eagles win 35-28. RIP #63…that one was for you.
I’m sharing this story today for a few reasons. The kindness showed to Joplin by Webb City, and so many surrounding towns was overwhelming and makes you feel good to live where you do; the people in this little corner of Missouri are pretty dang incredible. The other part of this story is to point out the impact of purpose in your life. Purpose can drive your business, give your life the north star it needs, bring your family together, and even help you win football games. We have some incredibly talented players on the Joplin Eagles football team, but there is no doubt in my mind that when those kids made it about something bigger than themselves, it gave them the edge that they needed to get that win for KRD.
There were a lot of prayers last week. Prayers for peace and understanding. Prayers for strength. Prayers to win that game. The final score was 35-28. 35+28= 63 which happens to be Kadin’s jersey number. The game was played on 9/7. 9×7= 63. Then there was this cloud in the sky that looked a lot like the head of an Eagle. Some people might write those things off as coincidence which I understand, but other people would say that God’s presence was in that stadium giving those boys a little push. I guess I’m one of those “other people.” Hope I always am.
Rest in peace Kadin Roberts-Day. October 1, 2003-September 4, 2019 #KRD #63