Nashville Christian Plays On After Deadly Crash

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 19:51:02-05
In the game of football  there can be one winner and one loser, the boys of Nashville Christian School know that well after their failed playoff bid last year.
But while they thought things would be different this season, no one could predict that the team would be dealt their biggest loss of the year just weeks before taking the field. 
"It was July 30," said Senior Bryce Collier
Bryce still remembers the day, the day he lost his best friend.
"We're missing a teammate, a brother, it's hurting," the 17-year-old said.
Less than a mile away from home, Mickey Martin fell asleep behind the wheel and never woke up.
"He was at practice that morning, I talked to him," Bryce recalled.
Mickey was on his way home from football practice when the accident happened.
"When you hear accident you think how badly are they hurt?" Nashville Christian Coach Jeff Brothers said.
As a coach Jeff Brothers had dealt with loss before but there wasn't a single playbook that could have helped him recover from a loss like this.
"If a coach is a father figure then I've lost a son figure, if teammates are brothers then that's what we've lost. It's tough," he said back in July of 2015.
The 17-year-old was days away from starting his junior year, and his team, days away from starting their season, was now without their star wide receiver
"It's still tough," Bryce said about the best friend he'd lost.
How could they go on? When every trip to the locker room, every walk to the field they saw Mickey.
"We had to get our minds right and play to best of our ability like he would want us to do," Bryce said about the less than ideal start to their season.
It turned out though the football family extended far beyond the walls of their locker room. 
On August 31, the varsity boys team took to their home field for the first time since losing Mickey. Fans sported shirts with the message "We Are NC Family" while the players took the field with patches sewn across their hearts reading "MM7," Mickey Martin's initial and the number he wore each game.
Bryce took the field wearing Mickey's number on his back and his memory in his heart. The boys of Nashville Christian were chasing something: a state title. 
By Novemer 13, their momentum had carried them to the playoffs against Huntingdon High School.
It was now win or go home and at every game was Mickey's mom.
"I just feel like he's here supporting the guys and helping," Maggie Martin said with her attention laser focused on the field.
Through ups and first downs Maggie Martin hadn't missed a game all season.
"This is where he would want me to be, you know, this is where I want to be," Maggie said.
But while she sat there surrounded by an entire school, she couldn't help but think she was the only one who had lost a son.
"Sometimes you do feel like you're the only one sitting there," she said about losing her youngest son.
Maggie had watched Mickey play football since he was five. Her boy named after a pro baseball player was destined she thought to play pro football.
The day he died, she'd made it to the hospital and that's where her heart broke.
"I said is my son in that room and the nurse said 'no the doctor will be there' and I knew that he didn't make it in the accident, I knew from that moment and I just was stunned," she said with a slight quiver in her voice.
Like the rest of the team she was lost only finding her way by coming back to the stands each Friday night.
This team that knew what it was like to lose, was on a mission to make school history, and after persevering through the playoffs, they'd managed to make their way into the State Championship Game on December 4 at Tennessee Tech University.
If any of them were nervous about the game against Greenback they didn't show it, even Bryce who still wearing Mickey's number seven.
They'd worked too hard, come too far and lost so much, and in the biggest game of their lives they became unstoppable. 
As the seconds ticked away  the school's first state championship became theirs.
The team won 42-14.
Maggie, with her son's number on her sleeve, rushed the field as soon as the last play was called.
"I'm just so glad they made it this far, I am," she said holding back tears.
Through the sea of excited players and parents Maggie managed to find her way to Bryce. The two embraced midfield and through heavy sobs could be heard saying, "I love you," to one another.
What they both would have given for Mickey to be there on the field.
"He would be ecstatic, this is what he played for. He said all summer long this was our year, we're going to win this year and they did," Maggie said holding the state championship trophy.
For a team that knows what it is like to lose,  winning never felt so good.