Family finds comfort knowing football player died doing what he - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Family finds comfort knowing football player died doing what he loved

(WMC-TV) – The family of the 15-year-old football player who died during practice Tuesday gathered to speak to Action News 5 about his positive personality and his love of the game.

Dana Payne, a Millington football player, died shortly after was injured during a tackle on the field.

His family says he was always positive and always on the football field.

"Football was his life, he's been doing it since he was 7 years old," said his uncle, Alvedo Puryear. "It was just one of those hits and not just in football. You know, some athletes can be healthy but when it's your time, it's your time."

His mother, Tameka Smith, said her three boys have always wanted to play football.

"They would run around the house playing, throwing football in the house. You tell them to put it down, he would go in another room and throw it anyway," she said.

Payne was raised in Memphis and grew up in the Northaven community. He started playing football during his elementary school years with the Northaven Bulldogs. He was known for his smile.

"He was always the center of attention, he was always smiling and laughing no matter what the situation," said his uncle.

His family said they did not realize how popular Payne was until his teammates and friends showed up at the hospital to show their support.

"As I was looking at them pour their hearts out, I told them, ‘My heart goes to y'all because y'all was there with him every day of the week,'" said Dana's aunt, Tangela Crawford-Chambers.

Payne's mother said she has been praying for strength for the young man who hit her son during practice.

"No, no, just a tragic accident. He was just doing what he do he loved, football, and his teammate was playing with him," she said.

Payne was the oldest of three boys and his uncle said his brothers looked up to him as a role model.

"His little brother, Peanut, was always with him. If you saw Dana, you saw Peanut," said Puryear.

Although his father was absent in his life, family and friends say Payne was surrounded by father figures.

They say his love for sports kept him out of streets.

"He loved the Pittsburgh Steelers that was his favorite team. His favorite things were to play basketball and football," his uncle said.

Payne took his last breaths on the field and family say they are at peace knowing he died doing what he enjoyed most.

"Pass doing something you love is a blessing in itself because most people don't get that opportunity. We know he was happy," said Puryear.

His grandmother says Payne is now a star player in a greater place.

"You just have to do what you love and don't live in fear. I hate that this tragic situation happened but if he had to leave this earth I would rather it be something that he loved the most," said Payne's aunt.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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