Pascagoula students mourn tragic death of former Panther footbal - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Pascagoula students mourn tragic death of former Panther football player

Many Pascagoula High School students returned to class Monday morning with heavy hearts. (Photo source: Pascagoula-Gautier School District.) Many Pascagoula High School students returned to class Monday morning with heavy hearts. (Photo source: Pascagoula-Gautier School District.)
Several team members shared their memories of Marshawn Keith Joseph, Jr. (Photo source: WLOX) Several team members shared their memories of Marshawn Keith Joseph, Jr. (Photo source: WLOX)
PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

Many Pascagoula High School students returned to class Monday morning with heavy hearts. They are mourning the loss of a former classmate and football player who died in a tragic car crash Friday afternoon. 

Several team members shared their memories of Marshawn Keith Joseph, Jr.

"My brother walked up to me and he was crying, and I knew something bad was going on because my brother never cries. I couldn't believe it, and it just hit me so hard," said Pascagoula High School senior Jakwaize Walker.

Walker and his teammates heard the heartbreaking news in the final minutes of their game against Gautier High on Friday. The mood immediately changed from excitement to sorrow. 

"Everybody was excited, jumping around. The next thing, everybody's on the ground, either someone's holding somebody," said Walker.

His cousin, former Pascagoula Panther Marshawn Joseph, Jr. and his dad had died in a single car accident near Leakesville.

"It was hard to understand. I still think about it, like he could have been doing anything, but he was on his way to our game, and that means a lot to me. That means he really believed in us and trusted in us," said Pascagoula High senior Jonathan Boulton.

Boulton played defensive end alongside Marshawn last year, before the 18-year old went on to play for Mississippi State University. He looked up to Marshawn, known as M.J., and a leader.

"Everyday he would push me, like help me on my technique, help me get better, help me make the team better," said Boulton. "I knew him being a happy person. He wouldn't want me to be sad."

The sadness was overwhelming for many students.

"It was very hard. This morning, all I could do was play music, look at pictures and videos I had of him," said Walker.

To help students and teachers cope with the tragedy, school counselors and church ministers met with those who were hurting.

"Dealing with a lot of tragedy and a lot of loss, I let them know that God has the answer," said Pastor Rodney Beard of New Birth Reconciliation Ministry.

M.J.'s death has inspired the team to work even harder and appreciate that Panther bond.

"This happening has pushed me to want to be a better person, not only a better person, but a better player, push myself more and be able to say, 'I gave it everything,'" said Walker.

Several players say they will dedicate their playoff game this Friday night to M.J.

A close friend of M.J.'s dad was among those who came to comfort students at Pascagoula High Monday. 

Derrick Taite played football with the 44-year-old Keith Joseph, Sr. at Mississippi State University. Both men also played arena football together and were roommates.

Taite said Joseph, Sr. was a man of faith whose bond with his son was inseparable. As Taite was trying to come to terms with the tragedy, a coach at MSU gave him an answer.

"They had so much love for each other that God really had to take them together because one couldn't live without the other, and I was like, wow. That really hit home to me. We hate that it happens and we always ask why, but if you stay in a place of prayer, God will tell you why," said Taite.

Mississippi State will hold a memorial service for the two men on Thursday. The Bulldogs will also wear a helmet decal with the letters M.J. at Saturday's game.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

  

  

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