Oxford school shooting resurfaces Columbine memories for Lions coach

Detroit News

Allen Park — It’s difficult to return to everyday life the day after a tragedy strikes your community, whether you work for the local grocery or an NFL team.

On Wednesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell opened his daily news conference expressing condolences to the town of Oxford, where four students died in a school shooting on Tuesday.

“Our heart goes out to the Oxford community,” Campbell said. “It’s awful. Nobody should have to deal with that. Prayers go out to the families and everybody involved. That goes from myself to the players to the whole Lions community. It’s awful.”

The news hit particularly hard for Campbell and defensive line coach Todd Wash, who both have high school-aged children at home.

“We had the discussions, last night, before we got out of here just about being safe, seeing some of the warning signs with teammates,” Wash said, choking up with emotion. “He plays football down there. If you see something, you’ve got to say something. It’s a scary, scary deal. As parents, we’ve got to do a better job in the United States raising our kids. That’s how I feel, but I don’t want to get into all that stuff.”

This isn’t new ground for Wash, who was serving as the head coach of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. in 1999, the same year a shooting at Columbine High School  left 15 dead, including the two perpetrators of the massacre.

At the time, Wash was recruiting in Denver and Columbine was one of schools under his purview.

“I was in Denver, so it hits home,” Wash said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them. It hits, just because we all have children and when they go to school they should be safe. That’s not the case, so that hits a little bit with all of us, as a parent.”

Campbell’s connections to Oxford extend to his time with the New Orleans Saints. While coaching tight ends for the franchise, fullback Zach Line was on the roster from 2017-19. An Oxford High School graduate, he returned home and became the school’s head football coach following the conclusion of his playing days.

Campbell knew Line had returned to Michigan, but didn’t find out the connection until Wednesday morning.

“I found out before the walkthrough,” Campbell said. “I didn’t even realize that. That will be the first thing I do when I leave here is give him a call. I did not even put two and two together.”

One of Line’s players, Tate Myre, was among the four victims who lost their lives, along with Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17 and Justin Shilling, 17, who succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday.

“I just reached out to (my daughter) this morning and told her, ‘Have a good day,” Campbell said. “Just want to make sure she knows I care about her. I think that’s the biggest thing. We’re not guaranteed anything on this earth, man. You just live each moment like it could be your last because you don’t know. That’s kind of the reality behind it. It’s awful.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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