Sad news hit Appalachian State’s campus on Labor Day when Noelle Marie Stringer, the 11-day-old daughter of sophomore linebacker Devan Stringer, died suddenly Monday.
Despite the news, Stringer, who participated in practice Tuesday, will play in Saturday’s game at Clemson.
“[Monday] was extremely traumatic and hard for him,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “To come out here and get around his boys, he gets to escape a little bit, and that’s healthy. I think that’s part of the healing process.”
“I’m really thankful for God giving me the ability to play football, because this is helping me through it,” Stringer said.
He also expressed gratitude for the team and other Appalachian State staff during this tough time.
“I really appreciate all the support from my teammates up here and the whole coaching staff and faculty and teachers who have been reaching out to me,” Stringer said.
Satterfield understands the impact that his coaching staff can have on student-athletes like Stringer.
“It’s not just about Xs and Os on the football field,” Satterfield said. “That’s just a small part of what we have to do as coaches and administrators. We’re dealing with these kid’s lives, and most of it is off the field. We’re here to support them, to educate them. In good times, bad times, all that.”
One other person has made an effort to reach out to Stringer throughout the week: Clemson’s starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The two of them grew up together, playing football and basketball throughout their childhood in Gainesville, Georgia.
“We’re really like brothers, man,” Stringer said. “When his mom was going through that situation they had, he would come stay over at my house, and we would have a blast.”
During an interview Monday afternoon, Watson made sure to mention his childhood friend.
“I know he’s going through a hard time so send prayers his way,” Watson said. “But he’s going to be be strong. He’s a great player, and it’s going to be fun seeing him Saturday.”
Later that night, Watson reached out in a more personal way.
“He called me [Monday] night,” Stringer said. “I told him I appreciate that shout-out he gave me on his interview. That was nice of him. He just told me to stay strong for my family and ball out on Saturday.”
That’s exactly what he plans to do, as both Stringer and Watson have been looking forward to the game since they found out it was on the schedule.
“We’ve been talking about it ever since,” Stringer said. “It’s going to be real fun to see him again. I haven’t got to hit him since we were about 11 years old.”
Stringer, who had two tackles and two additional quarterback hits in Sept. 5’s game against Howard, knows that taking down Watson will be tough.
“He’s a big guy,” Stringer said. “Got a big body. He runs well, and he’s definitely not an easy guy to bring down.”
Through all of the emotions that Stringer has experienced this week, he still managed to find some time to boast to his “brother.”
“I gave him a little trash talk,” Stringer said. “I just told him if he comes off that edge thinking I’m not going to be there, he’s very wrong.”
And while this game holds a special place for the two’s lifelong relationship, regardless of the opponent, Stringer would still be playing this weekend. Playing for his teammates.
“He loves these guys, and he loves being out on this field,” Satterfield said. “He always has since he was a little boy, so for him it’s an escape, and he probably needs that.”
Story by: Colin Tate, Sports Reporter