His moment should have been pure bliss.
A well-earned tribute to perseverance and a long, hard climb to his sport’s highest level.
Instead, it was mixed with sadness and regret, tainted by the breathtaking guilt that still accompanies the worst mistake of Marcus Thigpen’s young life.
The one that cost LaCrecia Daniels’ hers.
No Dolphin had done that in five years, not since Ted Ginn Jr., his old college track rival.
Upon reaching the end zone Thigpen did not exult or pound his chest.
Instead, he dropped to one knee, pointed to the sky and bowed his head in silent prayer.
Softly, he spoke the same four words he’s been saying after every touchdown since he was at Indiana.
“This is for you.”
On a rainy night
It rained on and off that late May night in Detroit 11 years ago.
Seven young friends, bored and looking for fun, piled into one of their parents’ vehicles, a van, and embarked on what was supposed to be a joyride.
None of them were of legal driving age.
Three of the passengers were teen boys, including Thigpen, who had recently turned 15 and was finishing his freshman year at Henry Ford High School.
Kiyetta Thigpen, Marcus’ younger sister, was among the four girls in the van. So was LaCrecia Daniels, Marcus’ neighbor and ex-girlfriend from elementary school.
The other two boys took turns speeding down the interstate toward downtown Detroit, over the MacArthur Bridge and into Belle Isle Park, a 982-acre, tree-lined refuge in the middle of the Detroit River.
“Egging each other on to do crazy things,” says Joy Thigpen, Marcus’ wife.
Laughter filled the van. No police cars were in sight.
Finally, the first two drivers turned to Marcus and told him it was his turn.