When Jackson Central-Merry’s football team entered the field at North Side on Friday at the SportsPlus Jamboree, they were led by the raised No. 62 green jersey.
That jersey should’ve been full with junior lineman Bubba Sterling, but he passed away on Feb. 8 when his house burned with him asleep inside. Teammates described him as one that never quit on the practice field and was always enthusiastic to be out there.
They also said he probably would’ve been the team’s starting center this season after working his way up the depth chart as an underclassmen.
Keeunan Williams was one of his teammates on the line and a neighbor across the road, and he was there when emergency personnel brought Sterling out of the house.
“I saw him when he was brought out and when he died,” Williams said. “That’s something I’ll never forget – him being brought out like that.”
Sterling’s death happened early on a Saturday morning, and JCM’s players said the school was much different from its normal environment for the following week.
“It was quiet. Nobody was talking much,” said Gerren Hudson. “We were all in shock and wondering why this happened to someone in our school and why it happened to Bubba.”
Teammates described Sterling on the practice field as one that would never quit and always enthusiastic. After missing a few offseason workout sessions, Williams said Sterling was enthusiastic about getting back in the weightroom with his teammates.
“He told me that afternoon he was coming back,” said receiver Tyshon Banks. “He was excited, and I was looking forward to seeing him there with us. Then I heard the news the next morning.”
Williams recalled the last time he talked to his friend.
“JCM’s basketball team was playing at North Side that night, and I saw him that afternoon,” Williams said. “I asked him if he was going to the game, and he said no he was going to Rush at Operation Hope.
“But he got his physical done and was coming back out there, and that was the last time I talked to him.”
From that point on in the offseason, the players at JCM were as motivated by playing and winning for their fallen teammate as much as their simple desire to go out and win, which was displayed when they were asked about this week’s season opener against Dyersburg.
“We want to get this win for Bubba because he’s our brother, and he would’ve been trying to get this win for us,” said defensive back Adarius Murphy. “Anything we do this season is dedicated to him and his family because they were part of our family.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751
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