Walking through a line of cheerleaders rustling their pon poms and football players with somber faces, Ursula Ward made her way to midfield at the O’Bryant football field on Friday night.
Flanked by her daughter and her late son Odin Lloyd’s best friend and former O’Bryant teammate, Darryl Hodge, Ward received flowers from the O’Bryant and Burke football coaches before performing the pregame coin toss
And she got the game ball signed by all the O'Bryant players after their 32-16 victory against Burke.
“It meant a whole lot to me, I just wish it was under different circumstances,” said Ward, whose 27-year-old son was the victim of a homicide in June, allegedly at the hands of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. “I wish my son was here. I’m actually watching him perform and not what is going on right now.”
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.
“We present these flowers in dedication and sincerity and hope that it lightens your load a little,” O’Bryant coach Kevin Gadson said during the ceremony. “I know that it's tough. We play this game in memory of Odin. He was a sound player and member of the O’Bryant family.”
Burke coach Byron Beaman is a former assistant at O’Bryant and played for the Bandits.
“Being a longtime member of the Boston Bandits and former coach of O’Bryant's coach, it’s only fitting and proper that we do this before this game,” Beaman said.
After the brief speeches, there was a 53-second moment of silence in accordance with a Bandits' tradition.
Then Ward flipped the coin.
“It was wonderful, really,” she said of the coin toss. “I never had the opportunity. It was a wonderful feeling, because it is in honor of my son and he is an amazing child. He is my heart.”
Ward said her son loved playing for O’Bryant and that the coaches were his role models.
“He looked up to them. Because of them Odin [did] the best he [could].”
Lloyd's best friend, Hodge, played with Lloyd on the O’Bryant and Bandit teams. His arm was linked with Lloyd's mother as they walked out onto the field.
“For them to honor his mom in this unfortunate situation is heartfelt,” he said. “I support his mom every day, a football game or memorial game is not going to change that. I support her every day. Anything she needs, Odin is my brother, we just came out of different moms.”
Ward’s daughter Shaquilla Thibou, 20, and granddaughter Sanayah Williams, 8, also walked onto the field along with Lloyd’s girlfriend Shaneah Jenkins.
“It was very hard for me to be at a tribute for my son and my son is not here,” Ward said.
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