Dan Campbell said the last-second win on Sunday showed plenty about his team. Indeed when the Lions beat the Vikings 29-27 for their first win of the season it was a big deal.
Afterward, instead of basking in the break-through win, the team’s heart was on full display.
The Detroit Lions coach walked into the media interview room, wearing an Oxford Wildcats hat and carrying the game ball.
“First thing I would start is this game ball goes to the whole Oxford community, all of those who were affected. That being said, I want us to not forget these names.” Then he read names of those who died — Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling, along with the names of those who were injured.
“Those names will never be forgotten, they’re in our hearts and our prayers all the families and not to mention all of those who were affected by all of this – the classmates, brothers and sisters, cousins, teachers, coaches, everybody,’’ Campbell said.
Prior to the game in warmpups, players and coaches were wearing Oxford Wildcats T-shirts and hats. Decals of the block letter ‘O’ were worn on the Lions and Vikings helmets. A moment of silence was held before the national anthem.
Campbell showed the team a news-reel type video in a team meeting on Saturday morning.
“We kind of dove into it, the depth of all of this. I just wanted them to know what we were going to represent today – the shirts, the hats, the decals. Some of our players know of someone who was affected,’’ Campbell said. “To me, my thought was if we can for three hours ease their suffering a little bit, that’s worth it. That’s kind of how I thought of this. We did a great job, the players responded and played well.’’
When quarterback Jared Goff was asked about the Oxford connection, he nearly choked up and had to compose himself.
“I’m trying not to get emotional, sometime special things happen in special circumstances and I think we saw yesterday what Michigan did against Iowa and then us today getting our first win in 12-13 weeks,’’ Goff said. “You never hope for a tragedy like this, but you hope you can be a light for those people, a positive that they can have fun watching today.
“I hope they were watching today and enjoyed that win and we can take their minds off it for maybe three hours. I think anytime we can do that, it’s a lot bigger than sports, a lot bigger than us and today was one of those special circumstances, we were able to rise to the occasion and make something special happen,” Goff added.
Tight end Brock Wright who caught the second touchdown pass from Goff in the win, was wearing his Oxford Wildcats shirt afterwards.
“It’s special for us to be able to do this … We knew that we’d be able to do a little something to try to bring a little joy to the families today. To be a part of that means a lot to me and means a lot to the rest of the team as well,’’ Wright said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of course.’’