The John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Jeremiah E. Burke High will play their football game in the third week of September as a tribute to Odin Lloyd.
The 27-year-old Dorchester resident, whom authorities allege was murdered by former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in June, played football for O’Bryant in the early 2000s.
The game, which doesn’t have an official title yet, will be played at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 at O’Bryant.
"We're going to try to do it nice and big, maybe release some doves," said O’Bryant assistant coach Mike Branch, who coached Lloyd at both O’Bryant and on the Boston Bandits, the semipro team Lloyd played for up until his death.
Branch said Lloyd's sister will attend, and he hopes Lloyd's mother and other family members do as well.
"I don't want to say [it will bring] closure but you want to try to move on," Branch said. "I'm sure she'll be there when we're honoring her son."
Burke coach Byron Beaman was an assistant at O'Bryant before taking his current job two seasons ago and he is also a former Bandits player.
"There are all these crazy connections and there are few guys who played at O’Braynt who played on the Bandits,” Beaman said. “I just started thinking about it, ‘This is crazy, all the connections between O’Bryant and the Bandits; it only makes sense for it to be the Burke game, for it to be our game against O’Bryant.’ It’s like a no brainer.”
Burke spoiled the Lloyd-led Tigers' shot at a Super Bowl berth in 2004 after O'Bryant was called for a crucial pass interference on 4th-and-19 in the fourth quarter.
"It was clearly a bogus call that kept us from going to the Super Bowl," Branch said. "I have no problem saying it was a bogus call."
A hard-hitting linebacker with Division 1 prospects, Lloyd helped the Tigers compete for a division championship in the previous season in 2003. But he had to sit out his senior season two years later due to poor grades. When he went to Delaware State University, he had to come home because his financial aid didn’t come through.
"He could have done better in the classroom," Branch said. "I think if he thrived a little more in the classroom the sky could have been the limit because I tell you the kid could play."
The memorial game might be played between Burke and O'Bryant on an annual basis, but Branch and Beaman noted that they will rethink its status depending on what's revealed at Hernandez's trial.
The coaches did say, however, that they think damaging information about Lloyd's character would have already come out in the media by now. They said if Lloyd was dealing drugs or involved in crime, he probably wouldn’t have had to hold down a landscaping job and he wouldn't have struggled to make his dues for the Bandits.
"We'll revisit it as it goes, but I can speak in depth having knowledge and background in the field," said Branch, who serves as Brockton's chief probation officer. "If he is a drug dealer, find a car in his name. If he is a drug dealer, how is he going to deliver drugs without a vehicle?
"In the few years that I knew Odin I had yet to see him drive a car. He used to drive his bike to practice. If he was a self-made drug dealer extortioner, he was doing a good job covering it up."
Branch, who also served as the Bandits' GM and defensive coordinator, said Lloyd owed $60 for his jersey from last season and never paid last season's $75 dues either.
“We’ll see what happens,” Beaman said. “But we do know he’s not here and a guy who had $40 million is in jail because of it, which is something I can’t fathom. You have $40 million reasons not to. I don’t care what was done [to you] … you just don’t get yourself wrapped up in something like this when you are a pro athlete.”
Beaman and Branch said they will use Lloyd and Hernandez's fates as a cautionary tale when players return for practice on Aug. 19.
“Definitely I will talk to them about their behavior and the company you keep,” Beaman said. “I think for the most part, for the young men that have been around me for the last couple years, they get it, they understand where I’m coming from.
“I’ll talk to them about it. I think [the game] is something they will be excited to be part of. It’s good for the school community and it’s a story that is nationwide news and to be able to play in that game will mean a lot to the kids, just to be part of something that is bigger than them. And that’s what we’re trying to do, create as many situations as possible and highlight and showcase city football too.”
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