COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the high school football season kicked off on August 26th, Gahanna’s Khalil Straughter was all set to play in the Lions home opener against Westerville Central, but it turned out to be the most emotional day of his life. During 7th period, Khalil was called to the guidance office at Gahanna Lincoln High School, and he was told he needed to get to Mount Carmel East Hospital. His father, Eric Straughter suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Of course, Khalil was heartbroken and shocked, yet he still did not want to miss playing in the big game.
“My dad, he was talking about like all week, like THAT game, he like really wanted to see it, so I just feel like I had to just go play the game,” Straughter said.
His father, Eric, grew up playing football in West Virginia, and he was heavily involved in the football program at Gahanna because he loved watching his son play for the Lions.
On the Friday his father passed, Straughter simply wanted to be with his team. “I just felt like I had to be here for my team, and for my dad,” Straughter said.
Staughter struggled playing at first against Westerville Central, but later, he caught a 32 yard touchdown pass and then ran for a 40 yard touchdown to propel the Lions to a 39-10 victory over the Warhawks.
Straughter said, “During the whole game, I was just like thinking about him, and going through memories that we had, and, like, it was just…all about him that day.”
Head coach Bruce Ward said his team has rallied behind Khalil this season as football is family. “It’s more than just the x’s and o’s, and the football on Friday night…it’s a family atmosphere, and it’s a family ordeal, and we were just fortunate to be there him, and help him through that tough time,” said Ward.
Straughter now remembers his father every time he plays on Friday nights, and the team honors Eric Straughter by wearing “ES” decals on their helmets.