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MAYWOOD | Proviso East’s football team took the field for its first game of the 2017 season last Saturday afternoon.
The excitement and anticipation of a new season certainly was evident before the game. Yet a special pregame ceremony served as a sobering reminder of gun violence that has claimed the lives of Maywood residents over the years.
Many of these victims have been young men such as Ryan Jones and DaShamone “DeShawn” McCarty. 2012 Proviso East grads, best friends and teammates—Jones’ family took McCarty into their home in order to give him a better life— Jones and McCarthy were honored by the football team, Proviso East’s athletic department and the community prior to kickoff on Saturday.
Head coach DeWan White said his team is dedicating this season to Jones and McCarty. Players will wear their numbers—Jones’ No. 22 and McCarthy’s No. 11—on their helmets.
“They were two good players here and they played multiple sports and they lived together. We thought it was a good way to reach out to their families and to honor them,” White said. “Maywood is a tight-knit community and even though we don’t have a lot of fans at all the games, we have those core people that come out and support us and we thought this would be a good gesture.”
Among those attending the ceremony was their classmate, Sterling Brown, who recently signed with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Sterling and him (Jones) were best friends,” said Ryan’s father, Eugene Jones. “Actually he’s the godfather of Ryan’s baby, Madison.”
Jones, 23, was slain during an apparent drive-by shooting in the 400 block of S. 21st Ave. in Maywood on May 2. The shooting was believed to be a case of mistaken identity. Jones is survived by his wife; his daughter, Madison, who turned 2 years old just days after Ryan’s death; and his parents. All were in attendance on Saturday.
Jones’ family was presented with a memorial trophy that says, “In Memory of Ryan Jones, Proviso East Football 2008-2012, 4,514 career rushing yards.” Jones is all-time leading rusher in Proviso East football history with that 4,514-yard total.
“It means so much because he came out every week and gave it his best,” Eugene said. “(He was) a good family man and just a great kid. Every time he ran the ball he was running against an eight-man line and (the fact that) he’s the all-time leading rusher in Proviso (East) history is something special.
“When Ryan left us, it left an empty spot in our hearts. But now, to see family out here and friends, and receive this award today, it shed some light.”
Scott Ware, an assistant football and basketball coach at East, coached Jones and McCarty and remembers them well. He said they were leaders and never got into trouble.
“Both of them were great students,” said Ware. “There were some rough characters in the street, but those two there (referring to Jones and McCarty) were great kids and never had any violent encounters or anything like that.”
Ware added that if Ryan had been 6-feet tall, “He’d have been an NFL player.”
“I had him all four years,” Ware said. “On and off the field, he was our emotional leader; he’d get all the guys in line. He was the team captain for the last three years he was here. Just a great overall person, period. It (Jones’ and McCarty’s murders) was a senseless mistaken identity; the wrong place at the wrong time.”
McCarty, nicknamed “Spuddy,” was 19 when he died after being shot in the head while in the back seat of a moving car with three other people on May 15, 2013. The incident occurred just a week after McCarty had returned home on summer break following his freshman year in college. Jones was a two-sport athlete at Proviso East, while McCarty played three sports. McCarty set a school record for most interceptions in a game (four vs. Willowbrook in 2011) and totaled seven for the year—also a school record. Although a reserve player on the basketball team, McCarty was one of the captains on the 2011-12 squad that went 32-1 in head coach Donnie Boyce’s first year and advanced to the Class 4A state championship game.
“He was actually was one of our spiritual leaders on the basketball team,” Ware said. “He wasn’t a starter but he was our captain and it just goes to show you the type of character he had and what he brought to the team. One mom has pretty much lost two kids, and this program has lost two Pirates.”
During the ceremony, the public address announcer read something that Ryan’s mother wrote about her son, titled, “Gentle as a Lamb, Heart of a Lion.” Here are some excerpts:
“Your love for people was evident from the start. From the tender age of 3 and 4 years old, when you would lay hands on people and pray for them (like the lady in line at K-Mart). … As you grew older, so did your love for family, friends and even strangers on the street. You would always say, ‘Mama, you never know what someone has gone through, me giving them a few dollars won’t break me.’
“… I know I was loud and proud screaming your name and running down the field that first Freshman game. After the game you said, ‘Mama, why were you running on the side screaming Run Forest Run, like I was Forest Gump?’ Just like the movie, I was just so full of joy seeing you run that ball.
“ … You touched so many lives in your 23 years. Daddy and I miss you so much, it’s still unreal. But, I know you’re with Jesus and Spuddy, up there throwing the ball. You had such an impact on sooo many, your legacy of LOVE will live on forever and through your baby girl Madison. There is so much more I could say, but everyone that knew our son already know the impact he had on ALL that crossed his path. #LLRJ22.”