Number 55 will be retired from circulation for the Bluffton High School football team after a Friday number retirement ceremony honoring Dwon “DJ” Fields Jr., a student who was fatally shot in March 2021 .
“We’re doing this so 20-year-olds can know who he is and live like a DJ,” Hayden Gregory, the school’s head football coach, said ahead of the ceremony ahead of a scrimmage against Battery Creek High School. Friday. “He was such an amazing person and a special person for the community.”
Gregory never met Fields until he moved to Bluffton this year from a high school in Georgia, but the stories he heard about him made Gregory want others to “model” him. The coach has been in touch with Fields’ father, Dwon Fields Sr., and said he was one of the first people he met when he moved to Bluffton. The ceremony was a necessary part of honoring the 18-year-old who was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity in March 2021, Gregory said. The framed jersey, along with an inscription and a photo of Fields, will be displayed in the school hallway.
“We want people to remember how he lived, not how he died,” Gregory said.
Fields’ parents held the frame during the ceremony on the 50-yard line of the football pitch while Fields’ former coach John Houpt spoke over the stadium speakers.
“Days passed with the same words – loving, caring, funny, honorable, respectful and hardworking – all came back to me,” Houpt said. “It wasn’t until last night that I realized the words we’ve all associated with DJ didn’t need to be replaced with anything new. These are words that will always reflect the kind of soul he was.
Outside the soccer field, a banner with Fields’ photo and the words “live like DJ” had been attached to a chain-link fence. Dozens of friends and family gathered in black t-shirts with school-colored angel wings on the front and the words “Team 55” in green on the back. They kissed, mostly in tears.
The ceremony “means a lot” and “was a big deal” to Fields’ parents, they said after the ceremony. Fields chose the number 55 in honor of his grandmother’s birth year and has always told his family that he started his football career with this number and wanted to end it that way. , his mother, Keema Bryant, told Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
“It was an honor because you don’t hear schools taking away high school jerseys,” Bryant said.
For them, the memories people have of their son and his kindness are a source of pride amid the heartbreaking loss.
“He left his mark not just on the field, but on this community,” Fields said. “He was always ready to help people and I’m very proud and honored that this happened.”
This story was originally published September 18, 2022 10:19 a.m.