It’s the middle of a Thursday school day, midwinter. The threatening grey clouds of what is, for many students, a stress-filled, gloomy season, loom outside the windows off of Center Hall. A bell rings and students flood from their classrooms, expressions worried or at least preoccupied, minds reeling from the thought of this French paper, that English project, a meeting after school, tomorrow’s game. Flurries are swirling on and off outside under the dark sky and the halls are slippery from snowy sneakers.
Amidst the chaos are a few members of the football team, laughing, joking, and shoulder-punching, distinct from the crowd. Teachers standing in doorways look on as they make their way slowly down the hall, creating a sort of Red Sea parting effect. Their laughter is jovial and open, and kids who know them stop to talk, to join in.
Suddenly, a loud, deep voice rings out. “Hey, Mr. Holman!” says DaQuane Drain, a wide, straight-toothed grin on his face, separating himself from the group to say hi to the history teacher. “Hey, Quan,” Mr. Holman replies, smiling back.
DaQuane “Quanie” Drain was the type of guy with 1,355 Facebook friends, who played football from an early age, who both teachers and students knew on sight, and who filled group gatherings with choruses of laughter, the type of guy who had a part in defining his high school graduating class.
But ask almost anyone who knew him what type of person he was, anyone who had met or even just been around him, and two words would be forthcoming: “nice” and “caring.”
Once, DaQuane gave Danielle Gay (11) his football jersey to wear after another guy had called her names, even though he and Gay weren’t close friends and didn’t talk much. He talked through it with her and told her not to let somebody like that bring her down.
And once when Shantel Pettway (11), also someone he’d never talked to at length, was having problems at home, he walked with her as she told him about it, comforting her but firmly telling her, “You should always love and cherish your mama.” After all, DaQuane understood how much a mother could do for her child – he had lost his.
In 2009, a car crash killed DaQuane’s grandfather and mother, leaving DaQuane and his father Henry on their own. “I raised him to be a man, to not be afraid to cry or to show emotion,” said Mr. Drain, DaQuane’s father. But, he explained, DaQuane struggled with the loss, and had a hard time leaning on others to cope. “I’m forty years old, and from my experience I know that boys are always closer to their mothers, and girls are always closer to their fathers. That’s just how it is,” said Mr. Drain. “He knew the road he had to take to deal with it, but it was overwhelming.”
DaQuane did attend counseling a couple of times, but according to Mr. Drain, it was hard to get him to go. “He wanted to handle his own business, like teenagers do. But he did express emotions when talking to God,” Mr. Drain said. A devout Christian, DaQuane was baptized when he was young at the Greater Bethel Temple, and later attended Bates Memorial Baptist Church. “After I moved to Texas, we were always texting, Facebooking, emailing, and we would talk about the scriptures and the gospels, what Jesus taught, to help him cope with his emotions,” Mr. Drain said.
Despite this, at DaQuane’s memorial service, many of his family, friends, classmates and teachers said he always wore a smile. “He was a young man going through a lot of pain, but… he didn’t want anybody to know what he was going through,” said Darmontre Warr, a member of the football team and one of DaQuane’s best friends.
Perhaps one of the most stable elements in DaQuane’s life was, in fact, his place on Manual’s football team, #8, defensive back. He was a sturdy 5’8”, good for solid tackles, and according to his teammates, he was a game changer.
“[Football] was someplace he could come and everything would be back to normal, he could forget about everything,” said Dishan Romine (11). “He motivated everyone. And if he knew what the team needed to do, he wouldn’t just tell people to do it, he would lead by example.”
Football was a part of DaQuane’s life from the age of two, when his father gave him a stuffed football he slept with every night. When time and resources allowed, his family would take vacations to see the Indianapolis Colts play, where DaQuane would have an opportunity to meet the players.
Career-wise, though, DaQuane wasn’t aiming to make it in the big leagues. In fact, he and his father had talked about instead buying homes downtown, remodeling them, and re-selling them to less-fortunate families, perhaps single mothers who couldn’t afford nice houses. “He wanted to be an entrepreneur,” said Mr. Drain. “And he was concerned about being a team player – never concerned about himself.”
“When we were little, he would bully people just so he could sit next to me,” said Dionna Cleveland (12), one of DaQuane’s closest friends. “He had a big heart,” she said.
Roughly half a year before his death, a baby girl was born, DaQuane’s daughter. He named her Lyric and explained to her mother Jon’a that he liked the name because considered his life story to be like lyrics to a song. Jon’a hadn’t been sure she’d wanted to keep the baby, that she was ready for motherhood, but DaQuane announced he was ready to be a father, and Jon’a was convinced. When Lyric was born, he spent most of his money on her clothes and toys. “He started buying stuff he didn’t need to, the cutest shoes, the cutest designer clothes,” said Mr. Drain. “You know how that is – you spend all your money on your child. Lyric was the love of his life.”
One day, a few months ago, walking downtown with Jon’a, DaQuane saw a bum begging for cash on the street and claiming he needed food. As they were walking past, DaQuane pulled out a ten-dollar bill and handed it to the man. “The guy may not have been planning to use that for food, and that could have been Quan’s ten dollars,” said Jon’a. “But he did it anyway. Just because.”
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