Ten-year-old Donovan Long had played his first and only football game with the Mount Olive Hurricanes on Sept. 21 when he died of an asthma attack hours later. The sudden loss ripped a hole in the Mount Olive community — a tear teammates tried to mend with a winning game they played just for him on Thursday.
Long’s family was presented a commemorative jersey that signified the retirement of his No. 20 jersey at a special tribute before the game. No one will ever wear a No. 20 jersey for the Mount Olive Hurricanes again.
Both football teams, Mount Olive and Goldsboro met at midfield before their matchup against each other and everyone in the crowd joined them in standing as they watched Long’s family make their way out to greet Mount Olive Hurricanes’ director Alex Ferrell and Ronnie Wise.
The Mount Olive Hurricanes PA announcer Shane Aube led the ceremony over the intercom. He told the story of Long’s greatest tackle, allowing the family, teammates and supporters to relive one of Donovan’s happiest moments. Then the speakers blared “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, which is the song announcers play after each Hurricane victory. It was a heavy but special moment, as tears flowed down the faces of so many in attendance.
Wise led the family and teams in prayer and the players who held balloons in their hands let them go, drifting off into the cloudless sky.
Long did not only have his jersey retired, but the 20-yard line was also painted red and white for him. It is now known as the Donovan Long 20-yard line. Inspired and motivated, Long’s teammates went out and took care of Goldsboro handily winning 48-21.
“It was a great night!! It was special to me having his (Long’s) family here with us, made it feel like Donovan was still right here with us, too,” said coach Darion Kelly. “Yes, it was a great win and we have many more to achieve for Donovan because that’s what he wanted to do, he wanted to help us win another championship, so our whole team is working toward what he wanted, [to] win another championship.
“It was special for my team, seeing players make great plays and then say ‘Donovan that’s for you.’”