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Paglia: Play it safe out there, Forsyth football teams
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Forsyth County News

This season, Forsyth County high school football will begin with silence.

Listen to it; it will be brief, but deep.

Forsyth’s teams will honor the recent death of Creekside football player De’Antre Turman with a moment of silence before their games tonight.

It’s an effort that Rhonda McCann, whose son, Connor, is a senior and plays for Lambert, coordinated with the rest of the county’s programs.

By now we’re aware that playing football – and, to a large extent, all sports – comes with inherent physical risks. Look no further than yesterday’s news that the NFL and more than 4,500 of its former players resolved myriad concussion-related lawsuits with a $765 million settlement.

Recently, we’ve been reminded in the stories of former NFL players whose bodies and minds gradually decayed after receiving hit after hit during their career. Slow or slurred speech, dementia symptoms, brittle bodies, surgery upon surgery – sad and slow declines.

But every reminder is still jarring, Turman’s especially. The Creekside junior was a cornerback for the Seminoles, one of the Class of 2015’s top prospects with a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky, according to 247Sports. Even more, he was remembered as a great kid who had persevered through the death of his mother when he 4.

And all it took was one seemingly routine tackle in a scrimmage against Banneker on Aug. 17. According to reports, Turman went in to make the tackle, dislodging the ball from the Banneker player and then fell limp to the ground. Investigators in the Fulton County’s Medical Examiner’s office told the Associated Press that the 16-year-old fractured vertebrae in his upper spinal cord.

All of this hit too close to home for McCann.

"These kids, they’re pure athletes," McCann said. "The inspiration was that that could’ve been my son, easily."

So Forsyth Central, Lambert, North Forsyth, Pinecrest Academy, South Forsyth and West Forsyth will begin their seasons in silence, and they won’t be alone. McCann sent emails to athletics directors in DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties to get more schools involved and had to ask people to stop responding. Lambert and North will have pictures of Turman displayed on their jumbotrons.

She even organized an effort to make financial contributions to i-DareU, an organization in Atlanta that helps players train and develop in the hopes of playing in college, an organization that had a direct impact on Turman’s life.

"It really is about him and honoring him and how much he had pushed forward in his life from what I understand," McCann said. "He had places to go, and he defeated a lot things in his life."

Turman’s life is all the reminder any player needs to cherish every tackle and every moment of a Friday night that is guaranteed to no one but is enjoyed by so many.

Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at 770-205-8982, or follow him on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.