JOLIET- The death of 16-year-old sophomore Paul McKay on Thursday had Joliet High School and its football team rallying around their friend and teammate.
McKay, a Fromberg resident, and a 56-year old Billings man died in a head-on crash on Highway 310, north of Fromberg on Thursday morning.
Coach George Warburton said the team motto has been “Forte” (Latin for strong or strength) and he has used football adversity for life lessons.
Players and coaches called upon that strength for the team, school and community at the afternoon practice, just hours after the accident.
Warburton said the team had a great practice.
“We had an extra energy tonight, be it Paul, be it each other, but one thing we always talk about is love and it’s kind of that brotherly love,” Warburton said.
The J-Hawks were preparing for their playoff game against Scobey on Saturday.
In honor of McKay, the players will have number 70 stickers on their helmets and number 70 on the field. They will also sell T-shirts with the phrase “Play for Paul.”
The proceeds will go to the McKay family.
Warburton said football practice was the first step for the team in handling the death of a friend. Players said they were trying to move forward.
“Our coach has been teaching us about adversity this year,” said Grant O’Rourke, a senior lineman and linebacker on the J-Hawk football team. “And it’s been a really good life lesson not knowing this is going to happen, but when it did happen, we were there and we were strong enough to handle it.”
“We had adversity at the beginning of the year,” said Rylan Olson, a senior quarterback and safety for the J-Hawks. “And we didn’t know something like this was going to happen at this time of the year, so it was a very good practice for what kind of day it was.”
Warburton added, “Paul McKay, I’ll tell you he had one of the brightest smiles that I’ve ever seen. Every time I’d see him, he’d tell me hello. He made it a point to say hi to us and to all the other adults and kids and so he was a bright spot in our community for sure.”
Warburton said the players will paint number 70 on the field in honor of McKay on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan will release the names, including the 56-year old man from Billings, on Friday.
-David Jay reporting for MTN News