The Oxford Tragedy: How a Devastating Shooting Became an Inspiring Sports Symbol

Kethan Kalra

A well wisher kneels to pray at a memorial on the sign of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya). (AP)

On November 30, 2021, Ethan Crumbley entered Oxford High School and took the lives of 4 students just like us. The tragedy shocked the nation, as millions sent their prayers to the devastated community. Among the victims was 16-year-old Tate Myre, an up-and-coming middle linebacker who wore number 42 on the football field. He heroically sacrificed his life protecting his friends from an armed Crumbley. As millions continue to mourn, especially in the local area, there is one bright spot; the community that has risen to support Oxford.

The Michigan Wolverines played the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, December 4 just five days after the shooting. The shooting, which was only 62 miles from nearby Ann Arbor, deeply affected the outcome of this game. For Michigan, a win would be crucial to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff, and it would also mark the Wolverine’s first chance at a Big 10 Championship since 2003. And when Michigan’s players stepped onto the field in Lucas Oil Stadium that night, they were not only playing for themselves—they were playing for Tate Myre and the rest of the Oxford victims. Each player donned a custom patch on their chest, a yellow “O” for Oxford with 4 black hearts for those who lost their lives, and another patch with a #42 in its center. To honor him, Myre’s family was welcomed onto the field for the coin toss. 

Photo from WolverinesWire.

The emotions were high in the locker room. Michigan entered the season unranked, and now were just one game away from an elusive playoff berth. And the Wolverines didn’t just win, they broke records along the way. Hassan Haskins set a school-record for single-season rushing touchdowns with 20, and Jim Harbaugh became the first coach in Big Ten history to win both as a player and coach. But what was even more important was the score. With just two minutes left against demoralized Iowa backups, instead of killing the clock, Michigan went for and scored another touchdown to go from being up 35-3 to 42-3, in honor of Myre.

After the game, Harbaugh commented, “We wanted to honor Tate Myre in this game. For his courage and what he did in the shootings in Oxford. He’s a hero.”

24 hours later, 42 miles away from Oxford, the winless Detroit Lions suited up to play a strong Vikings team while donning an abysmal record of 0-10-1. Yet, there has been a bright spot amongst the winless season in new head coach, Dan Campbell, who has completely changed the culture of the pitiful organization and brought a sense of family to a team with one of the least talented rosters in the NFL. With their playoff chances essentially gone, the Lions were playing only to ruin Minnesota’s season. Although they entered the game as 7 point underdogs, it was clear by both the pre and post game speech that this Lions team was playing for Oxford more than anything. In a high scoring nail-biter, it came to quarterback Jared Goff to lead a game-winning drive, something that has never been his strong suit. But with zeros on the clock, Goff found rookie WR Amon-Ra St. Brown in the endzone, as the Lions squeaked out their first win of the year, 29-27.

Photo from Detroit Press.

The record change means little to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but the excitement from the locker room was contagious, bringing joy to the hearts of all NFL fans (except those of the Vikings). Footage from inside the locker room showed Lions players celebrating their first win in 364 days as a team and as a family. To no one’s surprise, the game ball was given to the coach who did the impossible, Dan Campbell, who dedicated it to the Oxford community, showing that even the Detroit Lions played for a bigger cause and won because of it.