A special gesture for a special family to honor a special man

For totally different reasons, unfortunately, Oct. 3 and 5 will be dates that St. Clairsville freshman Logan Thompson and his family never forget.

The morning of Wednesday, Oct. 3, started off like any other in the Thompson household.

Shortly after 5 a.m., with sons, Logan, Landen (8th grade) and Lancen (3rd grade) still asleep, Daniele Thompson was in the kitchen having a cup of coffee before heading to work when she heard a loud noise from the bathroom, where her husband, Paul, was taking a shower.

“I went to the bathroom to see if Paul was OK, but I couldn’t get the door open,” Daniele recalled.

Panicked, Daniele, who couldn’t get the door open because her husband had blocked it when he fell, began yelling for Logan, whose bedroom is downstairs to come and help.

He was unable to get the door open, but he didn’t give up. After his mother called 911 and went to get his grandmother, who was in town visiting, Logan found a baseball bat and eventually broke the door down.

The Thompson’s next-door neighbor, who is a respiratory therapist, came over to the house and performed CPR until paramedics arrived and took Paul to the hospital.

While Landen and Lancen went to their grandmother’s house, Logan – mature beyond his years – stayed at the house and began cleaning up the damaged door.

Unfortunately, Danielle returned home at 6:45 a.m. and delivered the news that Paul, 44, died as a result of a stroke.

Obviously shaken and upset, Daniele encouraged Logan and Landen, who is in the eighth grade, to stay home from school that day.

“I wanted to keep them home,” Daniele said. “But, Logan wanted them to have as normal a day as possible so they decided to go to school and to (football) practice.”

With his eyes basically swollen shut from crying, Logan ran into Red Devils’ head football coach Brett McLean, who was on his morning duty in the gym.

“I was just in a daze,” Logan said. “I really didn’t understand, but I told Coach McLean about what happened as soon as I got to school.”

McLean, who was utterly shocked and distraught with what he was hearing, immediately asked Logan why he had even come to school.

“He said he just wanted to get away from the situation,” McLean said. “I was hurting for the kid and in tears myself. I am 35 years old, but having three sons myself and a dad I love tremendously, I was just torn up over it.”

As word of what happened continued to spread around the school, the Thompson’s support system grew more and more from the staff and students.

“I really appreciate how supportive everyone’s been,” Logan said. “I’m not sure I’d know what to do without everyone.”

Both Logan and Landon attended their respective football practices that day despite their heavy hearts.

As their mother and grandparents began working on funeral arrangements, the two oldest Thompson sons went to school and practice again on Thursday and Logan made the decision that he wanted to dress for the Red Devils’ game at Edison on Friday.

Each week during the season, the Red Devils’ coaching staff has a final staff meeting on Thursday evening to go over the game plan and final details leading up to the game. Along with discussing Edison, the coaches kept coming back to the Thompsons and what they were dealing with.

“I knew there were no words to really help a 15-year old, but I just kept thinking of ways that we could possibly do something to help (Logan) feel better at least for a few minutes, even,” McLean said.

During the course of the meeting, the idea of trying to get Logan a touchdown came up and every coach “was on board immediately,” according to McLean.

“I thought if we get the chance, we should try to get him into the end zone,” McLean said.

The coaches weren’t supposed to tell any of the players about the plan.

As the game was starting to become a little one-sided, McLean made the decision to put the plan into action.

“The next break in the action, I got (Matt) Kinnick, (Jaylon) Brown, (Jerrid) Marhefka, (Dan) Monteroso and (Michael) Ferns together and told them, ‘if any of you guys get loose, let’s try to get Logan into the end zone,'” McLean said.

The players were on board immediately.

The Red Devils got the ball back, and McLean called “27 sweep.” Kinnick handed the ball to junior Michael Ferns, who found a crease and was off to the races.

“He hadn’t got about five yards down the field and I knew he was going to go (the distance),” McLean said.

However, as he was heading down the field, Ferns didn’t score, he took a sharp left turn and headed out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Ferns said. “My brother (Brendan) is really close friends with Logan so being able to help him feel a little better or make things a little lighter for him was special for me.”

While the coaches and some players knew what was going on, most there that night had no idea why Ferns didn’t just finish the play.

McLean didn’t see Ferns step out of bounds because he’d already begun the process of yelling for Logan, who he admitted he had trouble finding on the sideline at first.

“I was screaming for Logan, but he was probably the last person expecting for me to be yelling for him during a varsity game,” McLean said. “But, he heard me and came running down the sideline.”

McLean told Logan, “You’re going to score on the next play.”

Logan didn’t know what his head coach was talking about or did he?

“A few kids had told me they had a huge surprise for me,” Logan said. “But, I really didn’t see Michael step out of bounds. I just thought he was going to run it in.”

While listening to McLean’s plan, it hit Logan that he actually didn’t know the play from that position since he’s usually a wide receiver.

“Coach McLean just said follow Michael (Ferns) and get into the end zone,” Logan said.

The Devils lined up and executed the play beautifully and the hole was as big as a “Cadillac,” according to Logan.

“We ran an iso and he went into the end zone almost untouched,” McLean said. “I don’t think I’d seen us blow off the line like that all night.”

The moments following the touchdown have become almost a blur as Logan has spent days trying to relive it in his head.

“I really didn’t know what to think when it happened,” Logan said. “I had so many guys hitting their hands on my helmet and everyone was congratulating me.”

The moment was extremely special for Ferns, too.

“It was great to see (Logan) score,” Ferns said. “I teared up afterward. It was like our way of showing him that if there’s an issue for any of us we’re going to go through and solve it together as a team the best we can.”

After the on-field congratulations, Logan was greeted at the sidelines by McLean, who was in tears.

“I gave him a hug and told him I loved him and said we’re there for him no matter what,” McLean said. “He had a big smile on his face and said, ‘Thanks, coach.’ Then the rest of the team gobbled him up.”

While much of the crowd didn’t realize what was going on, many St. C. fans knew exactly how special the moment was as word spread.

As just a freshman, Logan hadn’t seen much varsity action during the season. He’s been a solid contributor, however, on the Devils’ frosh and jayvee teams.

So with everything going on and family in town, Daniele made the tough decision and didn’t make the trip to Richmond for the game.

“I had been to every game and I was really torn on not going,” Daniele said. “But, I decided since it was all the way up at Edison and Logan hadn’t been playing much that I would just miss this game.”

It didn’t take long for Daniele – and the entire family – to catch wind of what had happened in Richmond.

“I got a text message from Landen telling me that Logan scored a touchdown,” Daniele said. “I called him back and said, ‘Logan scored a touchdown?’ Landen said he did and then I started getting text after text telling me about what happened.”

Once Logan got back to the locker room, he quickly grabbed his cell phone. He didn’t call his mom first, but instead took to Twitter where he wrote, “Looking straight up into the sky after scoring my first varsity touchdown, I know the old man was watching! Love and miss you so much, Daddy.”

Daniele, who admitted there would have been no doubt she would have gone to the game had she been aware of what might happen, went to Logan’s Twitter page and saw the Tweet and just couldn’t believe it.

“I waited up for him to get home that night from the game,” Daniele said. “The touchdown made the news so I had DVR’d it for him and he’s probably watched it a half-dozen times.”

The next morning, the Red Devils and Wildcats played a jayvee game in St. C. and Daniele went to the field amid parents expressing their sympathies and congratulations for Logan, she immediately sought out McLean.

“One of the dads took me to find Coach McLean and I gave him a hug and thanked him for what they had done,” Daniele said. “He was so sincere and just wanted to do something nice and special for Logan. Coach McLean didn’t have to do that, and I knew I had to thank him.”

Knowing how much the support of their friends, teammates, coaches and others in the community would mean, Daniele decided to set up the funeral arrangements for visitation on Sunday and the funeral service on Monday.

“Originally, the funeral director had it set up for Friday and Saturday, but I didn’t want it then because of the football game and I wanted as much support for my kids as we could get them,” Daniele said.

During the visitation, the entire Red Devils’ football team and coaching staff came and expressed their condolences.

“Both Ferns boys were there, and I thanked Michael for what he did,” Daniele said. “He was as humble as anyone could be.”

Daniele and the entire Thompson family have been overwhelmed with the amount of support they’ve received since Paul’s passing.

“We’re not from St. Clairsville originally,” Daniele said. “We’ve only lived here four years, but it’s definitely home for us. We’re sincerely grateful for all of the support.”

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com