Tuesday afternoon as a guilty verdict was read for Roy Oliver in the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, the teen’s former teammates were preparing to take the football field at Mesquite High School just days out from their first game.
“I knew. I just prayed. I just prayed. I knew it was going to happen,” said senior Jaxon Turner.
Turner’s one of a group of friends that played football with Edwards starting back in a pee wee league.
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“He was just a good person… a good person to talk to. You’d cling to him as a friend or brother,” said Alec Rice.
And in some ways, they still do.
A year and a half after his death, Edwards’s jersey still hangs in his locker. Underneath are the pile of letters filled with memories and condolences that collected in the days following his death.
Now his number 11 is Mesquite’s badge of honor, earned by a different player each year. This season, it’s worn by Edwards’s best friend Dewayne Adams.
“I just look down at my number and remember who I’m really playing for,” said Adams.
It’s a feeling they all know. This year, like last, the initials JE will be decaled on the back of each player’s helmet.
“When we run out the tunnel to the other end zone, I take my helmet off and I turn around and I pray to him… just stick with me and help me get through this game,” said Gary Green.
It’s how they’ve all coped for the last year both on and off the field, especially throughout the last couple of weeks.
“Ever since the trial started all I’ve been doing is praying. If you speak it into existence with the Lord, he will make a way,” said Turner.
Which is exactly what he believes happened Tuesday when Roy Oliver was found guilty for the murder of his friend.
“This young black man that was playing football, doing good in school, he got justice. That’s because we stayed prayed up and we fought for him… They saw us fighting for him. They heard our voices. I don’t believe no voice matters. We fought for him. We did this for him,” said Turner.
While protecting Edwards’s legacy has been a driving force for the team for the last year and a half, Coach Jeff Fleener says he’s hesitant to call today closure. Still he does believe it provides a sense of finality.
“I really think a big reason justice was done is because of how good a kid Jordan Edwards was. It took the perfect kid for this result to happen that hasn’t happened in a lot of other cases,” said Fleener.
And though his players are still just kids, they see a significance in Tuesday’s verdict much bigger than them or the number 11 they continue to fight for.
“We broke down barriers. We made history. He made history. He didn’t do it intentionally, but he made history,” said Turner.