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A Season to Celebrate Graduates: Damarrion Simmons

Damarrion Simmons does it all for Deztanee. 

Deztanee Cobb was his best friend. The cousin who was like a big sister. His biggest fan. Cobb, 17, died in a fiery car crash in 2017 just days before the start of her senior year. The crash claimed the lives of four others as well. 

“When Deztanee passed away, I was very negative,” Damarrion said. “I told everyone I was done playing football, I was done playing sports. When I lost her, I lost a lot of feeling for the game.” 

His story is a story of how football is more than a game and how teammates make as big a difference off the field as they do on the field. 

“The bond we had was incredible. It was everything,” he said. “After she died, I quit and gave up on myself. But my teammates kept telling me to come out and my mom kept pushing me. My friends surrounded me and understood me — those were my teammates.” 

Sports have always been important to Damarrion, who plans to attend Olivet College where the cornerback will play football on an athletic scholarship. 

“At first, sports were to keep me on track with school, so I did not fall into the wrong neighborhood crowd and do wrong things,” he said. “Then I started to believe sports could take me somewhere. My coaches pushed me. My teammates created a bond. It was way more than athletics.”

The support he received from his teammates and teachers is something he tried to share as a student leader at Kalamazoo Central. 

“A lot of kids looked up to me, because they knew what I’ve been through, so I tried to do what’s right. I just made sure they always had a friend to talk to,” he said. “I made this an example a lot — just know that whenever you’re down there’s someone who has it rougher than you. You might be upset that you didn’t get a pair of shoes, but somebody else doesn’t have even one pair of shoes.” 

Damarrion enjoyed KC, and he’s excited to move on, but as he prepares for the future, Deztanee is never far from his thoughts. 

“I think she’d be proud. It’s all for her: school, graduation, playing football, and going to college. She was really smart. She never got to walk the stage. I want to do that for her.”