Remembering No. 21

COPPELL, Texas -- With the exception of the subtle melody of Kanye West's "Hey Mama," there wasn't a lot of noise being made in the Coppell (Texas) High School locker room 20 minutes before it would take the field for its regular-season finale against Lewisville (Texas) High School on Nov. 9.

The only sound breaking up the rhythmic harmony of the song came from the periodic ding of a golden cowbell hanging just above the entrance with the No. 21 twice stickered in blue on it.

It was put there in honor of the team's leader, Jacob Logan, a 17-year-old senior wide receiver who tragically passed away on Oct. 14 while cliff jumping into Possum Kingdom Lake, 110 miles west of Dallas. A search team found his body four days later.

The bell rang often and did so at times that left little doubt of his presence in the room. Like in the beginning of the song's first verse.

I wanna tell the whole world about a friend of mine. This little light of mine, I'm fittina' let it shine.

It was vintage Logan. A rare three-year starter under coach Joe McBride, he had the right to be the most boisterous in the room but instead erred on the side of modesty.

At this particular moment, McBride had gathered the team for his pregame speech.

"Take a little piece of Jacob in every single play," he said sternly but on the edge of tears. "We owe that to him. He can't be here with us. We owe him a little piece of all of us that we are going to play our butts off."

He went on to talk about the drive for perfection -- Coppell was 9-0 heading into the game and then No. 24 in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings -- before circling back to Logan.

"As you come out I want you to hit that bell and when you hit that bell I want you to understand that we are hearing him," he continued. "He's our cowbell. We knew exactly who to follow and how to do it because he played the right way. Now let's go do it."

The team said a brief prayer before junior captain Solomon Thomas led the team out the door and onto the field, each player tapping the cowbell on his way out for good luck.

One of the main preservers of Logan's eternal flame is Thomas, an ESPN Watch List defensive end with the game-day look of someone you want to steer clear of but who has a heart twice the size of Texas.

Their friendship only really began the summer going into Thomas' freshman year, as Thomas moved from Chicago to Australia to Connecticut before landing in this Dallas suburb because of his father's job. But it came with a lifetime guarantee because Logan just made people feel like they had a friend for life upon first introduction.

"He was always himself all the time," Thomas said. "He stood for the right things. He was funny, smart. What he believed in he stuck with. He was the hardest worker I knew, too. He was just an amazing guy."

Even with another year left of high school, Thomas can practically name where he wants to play college ball. Logan didn't quite have that luxury -- though anyone you ask says he would have played on Saturdays -- but he was still Thomas' main source for advice on all things recruiting.

"Even though he wasn't heavily recruited he was the smartest guy about that stuff," said Thomas, who has "JLo21" etched into hair as a tribute for his fallen friend. "He would tell me what to look for in a school and what to really find out from coaches. He was just a bigger brother to me."

Logan wanted to know the nuances of the game because, as his mother, Mona, found out after his passing, he wanted to be a coach. Not just any coach, either, but one who catered to a particular set of children.

"A friend of his told me that he wanted to go to Memphis and coach inner-city kids," she said. "We didn't know this."

Modesty at its finest.

Had the Red River Rivalry not been on Oct. 13, a game Thomas attended as one of the top targets for both Texas and Oklahoma, he would have been at the lake at the time of Logan's accident.

That's what he told former Coppell football player and current Notre Dame running back Cam McDaniel when McDaniel called Thomas at 2 p.m. on Oct. 14 to see if he was at the lake.

"He then took a deep breath and said, 'Solly, they were cliff jumping into the water and Jacob has been missing for two hours,'" Thomas said. "I didn't know what to say."

Thomas asked McDaniel what he should do next.

"Pray," McDaniel said.

"So I got on my knees and prayed," Thomas said. "Then I called Preston Ramsey, Jacob's other best friend, who was at the lake, and he started crying. Preston told me that Jacob died."

Thomas, up from his knees after praying, dropped right back down on them and pounded the floor of his upstairs bedroom until his parents came to console him.

"It's the toughest thing I've ever been through," Thomas said. "Just thinking about Jacob and about what he stood for and how hard he worked. He improved everyone's lives even though he might not have known it."

At about the time Thomas' parents reached him, McBride, who had received a call from a team father at 1 p.m. informing him of the accident, was trying to gather his thoughts for a journey that didn't come with a playbook for success.

"It hit us all really hard," the coach said. "I felt terrific guilt even trying to plan practices after that and getting ready to play a game against Flower Mound [that Friday]. All of that was just so insignificant to me. So to have to prepare for that and mentally move on, I just really struggled because I wanted to hit pause and didn't want to play."

But McBride knew Logan would want them to push forward.

So after a team meeting at 7 a.m. the next day in which he and his staff did their best to console the team, the coach said his Cowboys "felt compelled to draw a line in the sand and go back to work."

One of their first orders of business was reaching out to Jordan Logan, Jacob's sister and a student at Coppell, to let her know they were behind her and her family. She became an honorary team captain for the remainder of the season as well as a model for perseverance through tragedy.

"Through all of this I didn't lose a brother, I gained 50 brothers," said Jordan, whose older brother Daniel is a walk-on at Alabama. "They are always there for me. I just always feel like I have so many brothers and it's not just going to be for now -- it's going to be life now."

Emotions reached unprecedented heights when Thomas grabbed Jordan's left hand and ushered her out onto the field before the game against Flower Mound (Texas) High School on Oct. 19 (Thomas has a picture of it as his Twitter avatar - @SollyThomas90).

Jordan, wearing Jacob's No. 21 jersey, did her best to put one foot in front of the other. The crowd bellowing "Jacob Logan" chants made her trek into the unknown a little easier to handle.

"Looking back he was huge on the field, he was huge in football, but he was so much more than football," Jordan said. "That game you could really feel his presence there. You knew he was remembered more for just being a good football player or the funny guy. He was meant to bring so many more people to God and that game really showed it."

Coppell won that game just as it did the next three to finish the regular season 10-0. Its dream of winning the Class 5A, Division I state title, though, came to an end on Nov. 24 in a second-round loss to DeSoto (Texas) High School, the No. 6 team in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings.

Thomas used Jacob's iPod to get his mind right before that game. Like so much in his life, he credits Jacob for introducing him to the music he listens to today.

So it was only fitting that Thomas made some music of his own heading out onto the field that Saturday afternoon, ringing the bell with No. 21 on it for all to hear.

A living legend too, just look at what heaven do, send us an angel, and I thank you.