Parents come out to watch their kids take the field and play the game of football on Friday nights.
For Nolan Ussery, quarterback of the Northeast Raiders, his dad is there in a different way. Ussery’s father, Nolan Ussery Sr., passed away March 29 before the start of his son’s senior season.
The football player brings his dad’s obituary with him and has it on the sideline for each game.
“I know he would be there at every game, watching me play and watching my teammates play,” Ussery said. “So that’s why I bring (his) obituary to every game so I know that he will still get to be there.”
Ussery’s dad was a running back for Central High School’s football team and shortstop for the baseball team. When asked if he got his speed from his dad, he said he doesn’t have that kind of speed but he has enough to get by. What he did get from his dad was a passion and love for the game of football.
“My dad was really hard on me. I would come home crying after every game,” Ussery said. “If he hadn’t stayed on me like he did, I don’t think I would’ve played football.”
Ussery said he remembers the day he got the news there was something wrong with his dad.
“My uncle called me and said, ‘Do you want to go to Atlanta? Your daddy wants to talk to you,” he said. “I walked in the hospital and so many folks up there and I was like ‘what’s going on? He don’t need all these folks up here.’ ”
When he walked inside the hospital room he said he had never seen his father look so down. Ussery was unable to hold back tears as he went back out into the waiting room. When he tried to return to the room later the staff wouldn’t let him in.
“They tried to hold me back and wouldn’t let me in. So I went and sat back down in the waiting room,” he said “Then they came and told me that my dad had passed. It didn’t seem real.”
One of the first people Ussery contacted was his head coach, Jeremy Wiggins. The quarterback and coach have a strong bond and Wiggins let him know he would be there for him.
“Coach Wiggins is like another father figure for me,” Ussery said. “He plays a big role in my life.”
The feeling is mutual.
“We created a bond,” Wiggins said. “I look at him as if he was another one of my sons, even though I’ve got four boys, we’ve kinda added him on.”
The coach understands the pain Ussery is going through as Wiggins lost his older brother when his brother was 14. He has used that experience to help Ussery through the loss of his father.
“Instantly I knew what was going on in his head. It was surreal to him,” Wiggins said. “We just try to be there for him. When he falls down we try to pick him up.”
Wiggins said Ussery now has a reason to play, and he’s proud of the way the teen has handled everything so maturely.
Ussery still thinks about his dad everyday and misses the relationship they had.
“He was like my best friend. He taught me everything that I needed to know,” he said. “I try to follow in his footsteps and do everything he did.”
Aside from keeping the obituary on the sidelines at games, Ussery also watches videos of his dad everyday.
“I get on Snapchat, I have a lot of camera rolls and videos of us on there,” he said. “Sometimes I go through and trip out laughing because he was really funny.”
Since this is Ussery’s final season, he is hoping to leave behind a legacy at the school.
“I want them to say I was a good player, I was a good student and led like my daddy,” he said.