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Maryville Football Honors Former Player with Red Ribbon Game vs. Fulton

Cody McCoy stood in front of Maryville’s football team Wednesday and told them about a former Rebel, his brother Dane, and how he died of a drug overdose. He told them why Friday’s game against Fulton is the Red Ribbon Game.

McCoy, a former Maryville football player who graduated in 2009, didn’t want his final memory of his brother to be from a funeral. So McCoy approached Maryville and they created the event. Each of the past two years Maryville has dedicated one game to drug addiction awareness in Dane’s memory.

“The thing that tore me up just as much as his death was seeing what it did to my parents,” he said. “In trying to think of what I could do for them, to bring some light into their lives, I wanted to do this game.”

This year, the event has grown. McCoy has moved back to the area and asked his employer, Pilot, to sponsor the game. They have patches and helmet stickers for both teams and are selling “beat addiction” wristbands to benefit True Purpose Ministries, a treatment program based in Maryville.

True Purpose, which houses about 70 men in Maryville and Knoxville, had five men on hand at Wednesday’s practice and will have about 60 at the game. They are building a graduation house, where men can live after the rehab program, in Dane’s name. Executive director Jeremy Graham cited a 96 percent recovery rate for those who complete a full twoyear program — one of treatment and one in a sober-living home.Each year, the event recognizes someone who has died and his family does the coin flip.The first year it was the McCoys, then a faculty member. This year, it will be the family of Clint Cox, another former Rebel.In the past six years, at least three former Rebels have died of drug overdoses: McCoy, Cox and Aaron Douglas.It’s easy to look at the larger issue but say that doesn’t happen here, but “Maryville can’t deny it anymore,” wide receiver coach Joe Robinette said. “We’ve lost three former football players and several students. Maryville can’t deny, Blount County can’t deny we have a problem.”Robinette sees how it happens; he recognizes how hard it is for a kid to say no and be seen as judging his friends. Peer pressure isn’t someone standing over you and forcing you to do something, it’s the fear you won’t have friends if you don’t.Maryville, the school not the team, started drug testing kids last year to give them a reason to stay clean. Students in extracurriculars, not limited to sports, are tested randomly. If a student fails, the school calls the parents with resources to help.“One of the biggest ideas early on was to give kids an opportunity to say, ‘I’m not going to do that because I’m playing ball,’ ” Robinette said. “It hands them an out.”Coach Derek Hunt wants his players to remember that their coaches love them and are there for them, now or down the road.“I’ve heard Cody tell that story a couple times, and I don’t think it ever gets easy,” Hunt said. “I love what he said at the end, which was take care of each other. I get chills just hearing that because that’s our message to our kids. Look out for each other. If somebody’s going to make a bad decision, stop him.”

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