When he was a boy, he was typical. Rough and tumble – wrestling with his brothers Chris and Stevie. He had his nose into everything. When his dad Steve and I coached our sons Stevie and Jon in tackle football, along with Greg Brown, Larry Reeder and Bob Starr, Brandon was there. A third grader champing at the bit to play tackle football. “He’s my football player.” Steve would say. “He’s aggressive.”
Brandon proved Steve’s statements to be true. But Brandon was more than a football player he would develop into a leader on and off the field. I recall an 8th grade game that I watched Brandon play. He was outstanding as a player. It was clear that he was a team leader. It was his leadership style that concerned me. After the game I pulled him aside and told him how impressed I was with his play but he needed to develop as a leader. I pointed out to him that leadership wasn’t talking at his teammates but talking up his teammates through encouragement. “Yes, sir.” He replied.
Brandon participated this past summer at our youth football camp this time as a coach. I was so proud of him and how he interacted with the kids 5th – 8th grade. His finesse, patience and willingness to coach and cheer on the kids. High quality character traits were on display.
I was on the sideline when the Panthers scrimmaged Montrose before they started their run to the championship game. When the varsity had finished Brandon made his way to the group of adults gathered on the sideline. He was engaging. He shook hands or hugged everyone there. His smile was broad and he spoke about more than football. He was as comfortable speaking with adults as he was his peers.
When he joined the Delta Rotary Club for breakfast the Wednesday before the playoff game versus Faith Christian. He held his own in conversations with adults much older than him. He would address the club about the football team recapping the season and discussing the Panthers chances in the playoffs. This was the week after Delta High School and our community lost senior Gannon Hines to an auto accident. He expressed that the students were having a hard time and the support of the community was very important to them. I couldn’t have been prouder of him and I know Steve was beaming.
The last time I would see Brandon would be after the team’s victory against Faith Christian. We hugged after the game and with tears in his eyes he couldn’t contain his joy. His leadership skills were on full display that day.
Recently Brandon spoke with my wife Melissa. He told her how much he enjoyed his job as a lifeguard at Bill Heddle’s Rec Center and that he was excited for the upcoming wrestling season.
When social media posts appeared Saturday that Brandon needed prayers and support, I thought maybe he caught the flu bug or something similar over the holidays. Then suicide awareness posts from various Delta friends began to appear. Then a post calling for prayers for our community because we lost another high school student. I feared the worst which would be confirmed.
I don’t know why Brandon who seemingly had everything going for him made the decision to take his own life. Even if I did know, it doesn’t change the fact that we have lost the potential of an outstanding young man.
His Dad Steve posted the following on his Facebook page.
“Not depressed!, not bullied, not moody, not confused, not anti-social, and no substance abuse. Suicide has a face to me now, and it’s my baby boy!”
I’m lost for a solution. I’m heartbroken because if Brandon can feel there were no other answers how do we convince others who are in that moment that there are. We cannot talk about this enough.
Saturday, January 11th at 10am we will have the opportunity to say goodbye to Brandon. The service will be held at the LDS Stake Center at 1521 Hillcrest Dr in Montrose.
I sent Steve a text Saturday evening letting him know that I’m here for him and that Brandon is special.
He replied, “Thank you. He loved you!”
Dennis Anderson is the publisher of the Delta County Independent