CAMAS — Linked by tragedy, Grayson Kennedy and Troy Pace played an emotional role in building team unity for the Camas football team on Wednesday.
Kennedy and Pace were Camas football players who died within three months of each other two years ago.
During what should have been the players’ senior season, the families of those two teens helped unveil tiles dedicated to Kennedy and Pace in the entry of Doc Harris Stadium prior to the Camas team’s unity dinner.
“I don’t know who the quote is from, but it is said there are two deaths in life,” said Aaron Linerud, a youth football coach in Camas. “One is your physical death, and the other is when your name is mentioned for the last time. So, with these engraved plaques, their names will always be mentioned.”
Pace and Kennedy left lasting memories in their short time with the Camas program.
They should have been teammates on the Camas freshman team of the COVID season of winter/spring 2021 that was coached by Dale Rule. But a cancer diagnosis the previous summer prevented Pace from playing that season. The Camas freshman team made Pace a team captain during that season.
Six months later, on Sept. 25, 2021, Pace died of complications of cancer. Three months after that, on Dec. 14, 2021, Kennedy died in a car crash.
Rule, who is now the head coach at King’s Way Christian, spoke about how difficult it was to experience the loss of two of his players and how important it was to honor Pace and Kennedy on Wednesday.
“There’s so much stuff to be learned from it,” he told the Camas players assembled. “And the word I want to use the most is community. We can talk about the community at Camas … and all of that is crucial and important unity of the community. But the real truth is the community lies within each one of you, to the dudes and the young ladies that you’re each accountable to and will hold you accountable and lift you up.”
Missy Pace, mother of Troy Pace, recalled a time when Troy climbed a rock wall in his slider sandals, despite her repeated efforts to get him to stop. She said how she had her heart in her throat when he jumped down from the rock wall in his slides.
“For all of you guys, I hope you have the courage to go up a rock wall in your slides and you don’t let someone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t,” she told the Camas players. “But I also hope you have somebody waiting for you when you get down that have their heart in their throat and want you to get down safely.”
After the brief words, the families unveiled the engraved tiles. Then the members of the football huddled in a group prayer of reflection for Kennedy and Pace before finishing by singing the Camas fight song.
And Linerud reminded them of the point of the engraved tiles.
“When you’re here, down the road in the future, and you’re here with people who don’t know their stories, point them out,” Linerud said. “Tell them their stories. That will go a long way.”