The NFL Creates Grace from Tragedy with a Georgia Teen

A year after Braylon Jakes’ parents and sister were killed in a car crash while driving home from his football game, the Muscogee County School District (MCSD) student got a unique surprise from the NFL. The idea for the surprise came from Kalin Tate, a former MCSD student. See photos of Jakes and Tate here.

At an assembly on Friday at Carver High School, Jakes, a junior, learned “that the National Football League (NFL) will provide tickets for him and a guest to attend Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.” Kalin Tate, a 2014 Shaw High School graduate, is the NFL’s sponsorship coordinator. As reported, “this is the seventh season the NFL allows employees to nominate someone they think deserves to be among the recipients of the 500 Super Bowl tickets the league office gives away.”

When it was time to submit nominations for recipients for this year’s Super Bowl tickets, Tate recalled reading about the Jakes family tragedy. With poignant words, Tate stated: “It truly made me emotional as I couldn’t imagine being without my parents at 15 years old,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email. “I had no idea who Braylon was. I only knew that he lived in my hometown and we have similar backgrounds.”

Background to the Jakes family horrific tragedy discloses, as WTVM reported in October 2022, that police said “three members of the Jakes family — Byron, 45, Katrina, 43, and Kamryn, 10 — were driving home from Carver’s football game at Thomasville High School when another vehicle crossed into their lane and caused a head-on collision. All three died as their car erupted in flames.”

Tate noted Jakes’ stolid ability to rise above his personal tragedy. Commenting in her nominating statement, Tate said Braylon “soared above his grief.” Tate elaborated on Jakes’ capacity for transcendence. “Braylon is so dedicated to football, the very next game against Crisp County High School at home the following week, Braylon not only was the team captain, but he scored 2 touchdowns and dedicated them to his family.”

Having details of how Jakes handled life after the tragedy, Tate shared that Jakes’ teammates and opponents “also stepped up. The Carver Tigers greeted Braylon when he returned home and continued to support him, and the Thomasville Bulldogs raised money for his family.”

Tate offered her perspective on the value of football and lessons the sport can offer. “Braylon’s story is a true testament to what football is all about — coming together as a team.” Tate added: “Attending the Super Bowl would give him something major to look forward to,” noting Jakes will be going into his senior year in high school. Tate added, poetically: “Braylon has a bright future ahead of him, and for Braylon to know that the NFL supports him along this never-ending journey of grieving his family, would give him that extra push he needs to reach for the stars.”

Carver principal Chris Lindsey added a statement of praise for Jakes, noting the “maturity he has shown during the past year.” Lindsey told the Ledger-Enquirer. “He’s doing extremely well. As young as he is, and to handle things the way has — no disciplinary problems, no academic problems — he has a good family structure with his grandmother.” Braylon will give the other Super Bowl ticket to Jacqueline Jakes, his paternal grandmother, with whom he has been living since the car accident.

D & B Staff

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Episode 12