Inside the Gilbert Perry football locker room, on the wall above the doorway leading to the field is a plaque that for the first time Monday the players touched.
“I got your back”
It’s been just over five months since sophomore football player Brayden Mason lost his life in a drowning accident.
It was Oct. 1. A Sunday.
Perry’s football team was knocked into a daze that week leading up to the Chandler game and had its worst game of the season, losing that Friday 55-27.
Frank and Karen Mason lost a son they adopted when he was 2. But they never lost their Perry Pumas football family. They continued to support the team in its march to its first state championship game, a rematch with Chandler, this time hanging in until the very end behind senior quarterback Brock Purdy, before falling 49-42.
On Monday, during sixth hour, coach Preston Jones assembled the entire program outside the football building and had the players file into the locker room to see the plaque that the Mason parents had made to give back to the team as their thanks for being there for them through such a difficult time.
The Masons’ also had their 10-year-old daughter, Riley, also adopted, on hand for the dedication ceremony.
“It’s a reminder not to take things for granted,” Jones told the players. “Brayden will always be a part of this football program, part of this school, part of us. Every time you walk out that doorway, don’t take things for granted.
“If you think you’re having a bad day. That’s a good reminder of what’s important. … Put things in perspective.”
It was part of the recovery, one that had some of Brayden’s closest friends in the football program in tears, holding onto each other, the pain from that Oct. 1 day coming back.
“It’s a reminder,” said A.J. Owen, a sophomore, who was close to Mason. “I always hit the top of the door when we leave, so it will be nice to give a kiss and touch that.
“It’s more meaningful now, I feel like.”