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A final goodbye

TALLAHASSEE – Former Lincoln High coach David Wilson stood in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. He opened a notebook and started calling out names.

Wilson read off the names of players who graduated with Keeley Dorsey to the response, “Right here, coach.”

It was a roll call, a way to check on players, some who were chosen to be pallbearers at freshman running back Dorsey’s funeral Saturday.

But Wilson called one last name – one final curtain call for a beloved player.

He called Dorsey’s name three times.

“That roll call was answered in heaven,” said Richard Ledford, senior pastor at Christian Heritage Church. As he spoke, emotions poured out of those in attendance, especially the 30 or so USF players.

Dorsey, who collapsed and died Jan. 17 in the Athletic Facility during a routine workout, was later laid to rest in a Tallahassee cemetery. Many people spoke in remembrance of Dorsey, 19, including his uncle, Mike Dorsey, his former principal, Martha Bunch, and coach Jim Leavitt.

“The players know that I get emotional sometimes,” Leavitt said. “This is a celebration. … Keeley was about living each day to its fullest, and this man is going to have a huge impact on us for years to come.

“Why God has allowed this to happen, I have no idea – I’m probably not capable of knowing. But I believe from the bottom of my heart it’s a good plan, a great plan – and it will just help make us stronger.”

After finishing his comments, Leavitt sat down near Ledford and, stricken with grief, began to openly weep.

Former Lincoln players, also Dorsey’s pallbearers, were in attendance, including players wearing jerseys from Ole Miss, Central Florida, Florida, Florida State, Auburn and the University of Texas-El Paso.

Mike Dorsey spoke of last summer when Keeley came to visit him in New Jersey and the pride he took in sharing a last name.

“He told me, ‘Uncle Mike, I’m going to hold down the Dorsey name. I’m going to make people proud of us.’

“If you knew about the tattoo on his back, then you knew what Keeley was all about. You know he lived, which was like there may be no tomorrow.

“And whether he knew it or not, we were already proud of him for what he accomplished in his life. He was a tremendous kid.”

Throughout the service, those who spoke of Keeley Dorsey’s love to play football said he was living his dream by playing for USF. Ledford also preached that “the Lord called an audible,” and how “now Dorsey is on a new team, in which Jesus Christ is the quarterback.”

A few friends from Lincoln also spoke to the crowd, including a friend who recalled his favorite song to sing in the car and another who recalled what he was like on the football practice field, working longer when no one else could.

“Things were going good for this program,” Leavitt said. “We just won a bowl game; I had the feeling about it being a great program, and then (Keeley dies).

“And I said to (team chaplain) David (Lane), ‘(This) happening is still good if you know Christ. … It’s still a celebration.’ I love Keeley and all our players love Keeley,” Leavitt said.

Saturday was a day of closure, a day to say goodbye. At the beginning of the service, the white coffin lay open for players to take one last glimpse of their teammate.

The coffin was closed for the last time. While his grieving mother watched it slowly lowered into the ground, Keeley Dorsey was buried with a Bulls cap on his head.