Flag flies high for McRoyal
From the day Ken McRoyal lost his life, his cousin, junior quarterback Dominique Blackman, has been doing anything and everything possible to honor his cousin, best friend and teammate. On Sept. 15 in McRoyal’s home state of Louisiana, Blackman was given what could be considered the highest of honors.
He ran out onto the field at Tiger Stadium prior to Idaho’s clash with LSU, carrying the Ken McRoyal flag Idaho has hoisted in each of its games this season.
“That was a great feeling,” Blackman said. “It was great to get the opportunity to earn that flag. I ran all the way from end zone to end zone, I made sure everybody saw me with that flag. It was fun and just another way for me to represent Ken.”
Members of McRoyal’s family that were present at the game snapped many pictures of the moment, Blackman said.
“They loved it, they got pictures of me with it, all my family members have shirts now with me holding the flag they’re wearing to the game,” he said.
The flag made its debut in the season opener against Eastern Washington. Coaches and players decided they wanted to honor McRoyal in this way.
Players had hinted on Twitter in the days leading up to the game that they had something big planned and were able to keep it a secret until they came out of the tunnel.
“We had a few things in mind. We knew we had to do something to honor him, besides the wristband,” senior wide receiver Mike Scott said. “We bring out the American flag as a symbol of somebody who has worked hard the previous week before that. So we thought we should bring a flag in his honor to every game and bring it wherever we go. It’s a reminder that he’s still here with us.”
Scott earned the opportunity to carry the flag out against Eastern Washington. The opportunity to lead the team onto the field with the flag is determined the week before by the “Ken McRoyal work ethic” standard.
“He played with a lot of passion, he goes hard every play with maximum effort,” Blackman said.
Along with the flag, the players wear No. 86 wristbands, many of the receivers have dedications written to McRoyal on their pads and many have dedicated their Twitter accounts to him.
But the flag was significant for bigger reasons.
“We thought, ‘What better way than to have a big flag, to have him put up on it and to run out representing us, saying he’ll be on the sideline with us,’” offensive coordinator Jason Gesser said. “We can all look at it and always know that he’s there, to know that we’re doing this for bigger reasons.”
The idea, Gesser said, stemmed mainly from coach Robb Akey who worked back and forth with players to decide the best way to honor McRoyal.
“Coach said that it could go with us wherever, can’t be destroyed, something that we can take care of and it can really show his presence in a stadium. You know, who wouldn’t see that flag?” Blackman said. “It’s something that we all thought about and it was a great decision by coach.”
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org