For the first time, high school football teammates and friends of Christian Taylor, the young man killed in a police shooting in Arlington earlier this month, spoke out.
His former coach was one of the last people to see him alive.
While the shooting investigation continues, his death and the circumstances surrounding it have taken an emotional toll on his high school football family in Mansfield.
The Mansfield Summit High School football team will play their first game three weeks to the day Taylor last visited the team.
“You know, I've thought about that a little bit in the aftermath,” said head football coach Travis Pride. “You know, was he coming, did he need something? I remember when he left, I gave him a hug and told him, ‘If you ever need me, I'm here for you.’”
On Aug. 7, Taylor was shot and killed by Arlington Police Officer Brad Miller, who was later fired, at a car dealership.
Before the shooting, surveillance video showed Taylor smashing a car windshield and using his SUV to break through a gate and smash through a showroom window.
His behavior that night shocked even his football brothers.
"It couldn't have been him,” said former high school football teammate Medric Roberson. “Like, it was him, but like, that's not Christian."
In light of the darkness surrounding Taylor's controversial death, Coach Pride is hoping his players at Summit High learn from the tragic event.
Pride recently reached out to his team for the first time about Taylor in hopes of moving forward.
“I hope I do a good job in trying to teach these kids on how to move forward, and what was that lesson for and how can we best utilize that lesson,” said Travis. “Even though it cost us something significantly, I'm still searching for the value in it."
Taylor was about to start his sophomore year at Angelo State University, where he was playing defensive back.
ASU and Summit players attended his funeral.
Current and former Summit players honored him in their royal blue game jerseys.
On Thursday, when they kick off their season in Wichita Falls, those jerseys will carry a special meaning.
Roberson, a senior receiver, will wear the same number as Taylor.
“Yeah, I think it's real nice that I got to get his number,” said Roberson. “If we score in celebration, I'll point up the sky and let him know that we're doing it for him."
“He was part of our family and stuff like that,” said Derek Johnson, a Mansfield Summit junior running back. “We need to use that as motivation and not anger, like taking it out on other people, just use it to motivate you and push you because that's what he would want; what Christian would want.”
Win or lose, perhaps the greatest gift will be, simply, the opportunity to play.
“The day he died, after I found out, I told everybody that was close to me to be safe, because it's not guaranteed,” said Roberson. “I texted a couple people and told them I love them and be safe and everything. I just, like, changed the way of viewing things. Life is too short."