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Junior kicker Parker Sampson wore cleats with “FLY HIGH JAY BIRD,” and “Jay 6/18/74 Young King,” written in Sharpie during Northwest’s 34-23 victory over Emporia State Oct. 5. Sampson was named MIAA special teams player of the week after his 4-for-4 performance.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — After his performance Saturday against Emporia State, junior kicker Parker Sampson was forced with a much tougher task.

Sampson played in Saturday’s contest against Emporia State despite the sudden and tragic loss of his half brother, James, Sept. 29.

The junior kicker not only played but had a career day. Sampson went 4-for-4 on field goals hitting a career-long 53-yard field goal, good enough for second in school history. The right foot of Sampson accounted for 11 points in the Bearcats 12 point win.

Sampson was recognized by the MIAA as its special teams player of the week.

After the game, it was back to reality for Sampson. An emotional Sampson said after the game he was “at a loss for words.”

Inscribed on the instep of both cleats Sampson set his career-high in was, “FLY HIGH JAY BIRD,” and “Jay 6/18/74 Young King,” in honor of his late brother.

“I don’t want to get emotional, but I think he was with me today,” Sampson said about his performance after the game.

Once arrangements were made and made public, coach Rich Wright said it was a no-brainer to take the team to the visitation in support of Sampson and his family.

“Parker is a part of our family,” Rich Wright said. “There was never really a question when I found out where it was and that we could make it work, I talked to the captains and they were unanimous in wanting to go so we rearranged our schedule a little bit.”

The Bearcats practiced earlier so they could get done in time to make it to Sampson’s brother’s visitation in Platte City, Missouri. The team practiced at Hughes Fieldhouse and 30 minutes after practice ended, the whole team was on two busses to Platte City to support Sampson and his family.

“We talk about family all the time and that’s what families do,” Wright said. “I don’t want our kids to just hear about family I want our kids to feel family.”

Two busses of 80 football players all dressed alike entered the modest room where Sampson and his family were. Before the players unloaded, Wright reminded his group to remember the little things as they went to support their teammate.

“You really feel the brotherhood here,” sophomore Zach Howard said. “It’s said a lot at every place but just the connection we have with the guys in our locker room is just pretty special. Parker is one of those guys who is a very good kid and if you need him he’ll be there for you. It’s been a rough week. You could tell.

“Just to go down and see the smile on his face when we rolled in and the smile on his family’s faces was nice just to be there for him,” Howard said.

Wright said the team didn’t stay for long but knew it was a must for his team to do.

“I don’t know,” Wright said about how many other programs would do the same for its players. “I know ours always will.”