Brandon Bourbon lives on in football team

Dylan McManis

On April 8, 2016, the body of Brandon Bourbon, a senior running back for the Washburn football team, was found dead due to apparent suicide inside of his van about 80 miles away from his hometown. Now, the spirit of Brandon lives on in his team.

Almost five months later, Sept. 1, the 2016 fall football season began. In honor of Brandon, Mickeel Stewart, a friend of Brandon’s since he joined the team, abandoned his No. 20 jersey and donned Brandon’s No. 9 jersey. Although it would only be for the night, he wanted to honor Brandon’s memory.

“I feel amazing, it’s a great honor. I wouldn’t rather do it for anybody else,” Mickeel said.

Mickeel scored the last touchdown of the game, diving past the Northeastern State defense despite tough opposition. In the last moments as he was being tackled, Mickeel flipped over the defenders and landed securely on his back with the ball in his arms.

“It got kinda iffy, but we pulled through on the last touchdown. We were so close [to scoring] that I did a leap because Bourb always did a leap. Brandon was one of the greatest dudes I ever met, I only knew him for about eight months. But from the moment I met him I knew we were connected; he always used to say it was because of our zodiac signs, but I don’t think it was because of that.”

Most of Brandon’s friends and family knew him to be kindhearted and humble despite the sweeping attention he had received since exiting high school.

“He was a great dude, always humble and a great leader. He was probably the most selfless person I have ever met. I miss him, I love him, I wish he was still here but we gotta honor him now that he isn’t,” Mickeel said.

Coach Craig Schurig intends to make wearing Brandon’s jersey a season tradition, swapping it between players each game in continued remembrance of Brandon.

“It was very fitting, and we’re gonna try to exchange it between various players, but Mickeel and Brandon were very close.”

Brandon’s father was even there at the game, cheering on the Ichabods from the sidelines as they honor his son.

“I feel honored to have Mickeel do it. I met him the first time I had come out here with Brandon; he seemed very polite and respectful. I couldn’t find a better person on our team to honor Brandon by wearing the No. 9 jersey,” Roger Bourbon said.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to come to all of the games. Coach Schurig is top notch. It’s almost like a family here. By keeping the fans involved in remembering Brandon, it just shows how much they cared about him and his impact on the team. It reassures me that we raised him to be respectful.”

Brandon’s father wore a No. 9 “Remember Brandon Bourbon” jersey to the game alongside Brandon’s family.

“It shows that he was willing to help other people, this is the way that they repay him.”

The team made a strong showing at the game, 38-19 against Northeastern State. Putting Schurig’s record against Northeastern State to 5-0 as the Ichabods chalk up the first win of the season.

The game featured touchdowns from Washburn’s Jake Horner, Peter Pfannenstiel, Chavis Bryce and Mickeel Stewart, each with a touchdown apiece.

“We won, so I’m happy,” said Akhmad Abdul-Razzaq, a defensive end who helped Peter Pfannenstiel to score by causing a fumble from the RiverHawks.

“Defense, we struggled a bit on third downs but we came out on top. Offense came out just fine. In the end, my role in the team is just another part of the team. I’m just another teammate trying to do my job.”

In the midst of their victory and remembrance of Brandon Bourbon, Schurig looks forward to next weekend.

“I’m excited that we got the first one under our belt, great atmosphere, great crowd but it was just a tremendous opening night here,” said Schurig. “I’m real optimistic, we got a great team but we gotta get a lot better. We’re gonna play a very good team next week, but our players are attentive and we just gotta get them through each week. I think we can match up physically but we need to start matching up performance wise.”

As a reminder, this week Sept. 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week. On Sept. 8 the Ichabods face off against Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Missouri.