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Charles had a different sort of personality. He was moody, aggressive. He wanted to be the best. When he signed his letter of intent, he told the coaches to "go out now and get some other good talent to play with me." His aggression was his strength—and weakness. He wanted to make all the tackles, everywhere. Sometimes he made the tackles. Sometimes a 50-yard bomb would sail over his head.
Michael was the kid. His father was a professional wrestler under the name of King Cobra. He was growing into his father's dimensions.
"You think about a kid, about what you remember," Gorden said. "I didn't have much to do with Michael because he had not been here too long. I just remember that he was wearing brown cowboy boots with white toes when he got here. I remember talking with him about those boots. That was his look."
The meetings and the conversations continued. Grief was a roll of black crepe paper strung from day to day to day. The memorial service in the student union was attended by more than 2,000 people. It was mentioned later that Darion had been involved in an accident only a couple of months ago. He had been driving a jeep, coming back to school from a concert at Alcorn State in Lorman, Miss., when the vehicle Hipped and was totaled. No one was hurt. Everyone was wearing a seat belt. Only a week earlier, another brother, Lloyd, coming to Jackson State next year, had also been in an accident. He was driving and ran into a bridge abutment after a deer ran out in front of him. He and his girlfiend were not hurt.
How many other kids at Jackson State—and everywhere—had been involved in situations of that kind? How many had escaped? The report was that Casey probably had fallen asleep. Had he been drinking? At this writing, tests were not back from the coroner's office, but no alcohol or drugs were found in the car. The toughest part of his night was behind him, and he was 30 seconds from home. Tracks indicated he had swerved left across the road, then had come back right and the car had flown across a culvert and hit the tree. Why? Why this kid? Why the three of them?
Three years in a row. A law of averages seemed to have gone askew. Why Jackson State? Why anywhere?
"You see young people in crashes again and again," Dr. Allen said. "You talk and talk about it. You caution kids. Do we try to live all of our lives in one weekend? It's just hard. You want to preach caution to them, but at the same time, you can't make them afraid of living."
One of her colleagues said he thought kids were too wild, too fast these days, a generation almost out of control. Dr. Allen disagreed. She said that older people probably were saying the same things about Socrates when he was 18.
"You can say what you want, but young folks are going to be young themselves," she said. "No one can do it for them."
The funeral for Casey Conner was held on Friday in the small farm town of Macon, Miss. Classes at Noxubee County High School were suspended at noon so the auditorium could be used. This was the school where Darion and Casey and Lloyd had played. A sign near the football field said this was the home of the Mighty Tigers. A crowd of maybe 1,500 people filled the room. Members and coaches of the Jackson State football team arrived in a large silver bus.