LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - Two weeks ago, the Lucedale community was shaken to its core after the tragic loss of football player and 2020 George County graduate Tajiri Washington.
Washington died in a single-car collision July 6 and was laid to rest the following Monday.
The George County High football team talked with WLOX last week to share memories of their teammate.
“Somebody told me, I just couldn’t believe it. Why would it have to be him? Somebody that good and nice, never done nothing wrong. Why him?” questioned player Laine Evans.
It’s a question that’s been on the mind of many on the team as they struggle to come to terms with Tajiri’s tragic death.
“My heart dropped, very hard to believe,” said Carson Davis. “It’s tough. You don’t ever think that’ll happen, especially a teammate so close to you.”
For the coaches who spent year working with Ty, it’s a loss that they will feel for the rest of their lives.
“The thing that’s really hit me is that I’m not going to get to congratulate Ty when he gets married or send him a note when he has his first child or wish him happy birthday down the road,” said the high school team’s head coach James Ray. “I talk to our guys all the time about you got me for life. I’m not going to have that anymore and it’s just heartbreaking to know that.”
Now, players who shared time on the field and off with Ty are left with nothing but the memories of their friend.
“He’s one of the best people you would ever meet,” said Davis. He was always laughing, joking, smiling. He’d call me ‘Tiny Body’. He’d always call me that, every day, just because he knew it aggravated me.”
“Every morning, I walked in the weight room, stepped on the field, he’d always come up to me and say ‘how you doing my son?’” said teammate Logan Evans. “No matter what it was he was pushing me every minute.”
“I never saw him have a bad day,” said Coach Ray. “Seemed like he was on top of the world. Always an encourager to his teammates. He was a great teammate.”
In addition to being remembered as a friend who was always there to offer a smile and encouragement, Coach Ray said the loss of talent to the football world is also devastating.
“His film study was amazing. He knew every position on defense. If it was a timeout, he’d come to the sidelines and he says ‘Coach, I know what they’re fixin’ to do, they’re fixin’ to run this quick option over to the sidelines,‘” said the head coach. “They did and he causes the fumble, he recovers it and the ball games over. The best screen player I’ve ever seen in my life as a linebacker. He just instinctively knew when a team was going to run screen.”
Ty’s talent extended far beyond just being a great football player; he was also a great teammate who was always there to motivate and encourage his team.
“He was always hyping people up, making sure everybody was doing their workouts,” said teammate Aaron Ward. “He was always trying to make people better and make them a better player, like a coach on the field with you, except he was playing right beside you.”
It’s a loss that the team will feel and remember for the rest of their lives, but the memories of Ty’s bright smile and encouraging words will stay with them forever.
“I’d just tell him how much he meant to me and how much he inspired me to want to be a better person,” said Davis.
“I liked him, I loved him. I’d also like to tell him that I missed every down and every second I played with him, right next beside him,” said Evans
“Tajiri, look over us, protect us, every once in a while give me a whisper about what they’re going to do,” said Coach Ray. “I hear my dad talking from heaven to so I know I can hear Tajiri, too. If he just looks down during the game and says ‘Coach, they’re fixin’ to run quick option’....I’ll get it.”