Dan Campbell held a football in his right hand and raised it above his head.
The Detroit Lions had just beaten the Minnesota Vikings, 29-27, for their first win of the season — Campbell’s first win as head coach — and as Campbell stood at the lectern for his postgame news conference, he dedicated a game ball to the community of Oxford five days after a shooting at Oxford High terrorized the nation.
“I just, I want us to not forget these names,” Campbell said, naming the shooting victims — four dead and seven injured — one by one. “Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Tate Myre, Phoebe Arthur, Jon Asciutto, Riley Franz, Elijah Mueller, Kylie Ossege, Aiden Watson and Molly Darnell, who’s a teacher.
“Those names, for all those will never be forgotten and they’re in our hearts and our prayers, and all the families and not to mention all those that were affected by all of this. The classmates, the brothers and sisters, the cousins, the teachers, the everybody. Coaches.”
The Lions (1-10-1) capped an emotional week for metro Detroit with an emotional victory.
Jared Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown as time expired to give the team its first win since Dec. 6, 2020.
The Lions wore “O” decals in Oxford gold on their helmets, took the field for early pregame warmups in white Oxford Wildcats T-shirts and baseball caps, and held a moment of silence for the victims before the game.
Afterward, Campbell and players said the tragedy was inspiration for their performance.
“Sometimes special things happen in special circumstances and I think you saw yesterday what Michigan did against Iowa and then us today getting our first win,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said, choking back emotion. “You never hope for a tragedy like this, but you hope to be a light for those people and a positive thing that they can have fun watching today. I hope that they were all watching today and were able to enjoy that win and we can take their minds off it for whatever it may be, three hours. And I think anytime that we can do that, it’s a lot bigger than our sport, it’s a lot bigger than us and I think today was one of those special circumstances that we were able to rise to the occasion and make something special happen.”
Campbell showed a five-minute or so video to his players at their team meeting Saturday morning, explaining the week’s events and letting them know “exactly what we were going to represent today.”
Goff wore an Oxford hat as he met with reporters after the game, tight end Brock Wright his Oxford T-shirt, and everyone said they hoped they could help comfort the community in its time of need.
“Just to put a smile on their faces is, it means more than anything,” linebacker Derrick Barnes said. “It means more than a win. Just to go out there and execute and give the crowd a game, give them a game, it’s amazing. I’m still playing for the families, for the school, the football team. I’m just glad that we can give them a spark today.”