The late Baylor Bramble may have been a football player, but he was so much more – a follower of Jesus, a brother, a son and a leader who has inspired people around the world, his family and friends said at his memorial service last Thursday.

Bramble, 22 and a former Siegel High School football player, died on Jan. 2 after a little more than five years after receiving a brain injury during a game at Warren County in 2015. Bramble was making his first start for Siegel and left the game saying his head was hurting.

Murfreesboro Maylor Shane McFarland had announced that the city was observing Jan. 2 as Baylor Bramble Day.

His father is David Bramble, senior pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Murfreesboro. The memorial service/celebration of life was held at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro to allow room for visitors.

David Bramble fondly recounted the many times his son’s friends, including teammates, would come to their house and hang out for hours until “sometimes, really late.” Once the pandemic hit, those visits became long-running video chats, “sometimes for hours,” drawing laughter from the audience.

He quoted from Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord: the homecoming of his saints.”

He added, with emotion in his voice, “And so … today … it’s painful, it’s painful, but it’s precious, because in Heaven, they’re celebrating. Baylor’s home. He is not just walking the streets of gold – he is running them.”

David Bramble recalled how his son was competitive, whether playing a board game or sports. That drive began at an early age. David Bramble shared how his wife, Christy, was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy and the doctors told them that Baylor would not survive.

After Baylor was injured at the game, the family was told he would not live, David Bramble said.

“Baylor always defied them,” he said about the experts. “Medically speaking, he wasn’t supposed to – but he always outplayed his size.”

While Baylor was in the trauma unit five and a half years ago, he was given hours to live. David Bramble said he brought his son’s teammates in a couple at a time to visit. Each one mentioned to Baylor something like, “We got your cookie,” meaning they had saved his treat for him.

Days later, David Bramble said, he asked the players about the cookie. It turned out that Baylor and the team ate at Subway the night before the Warren County game, and Baylor saved his cookie to put in his locker. He told his teammates that even if the team lost the game, he would still have a cookie to eat and the other players would not.

Weeks later, at the rehab facility, Baylor was connected to a device using a stylus and tablet computer to help him communicate, if possible, with yes or no answers. The results were inconclusive. The medical team decided someone should ask a question that only Baylor would know the answer to, so they used a keyboard to ask what food was in his football locker. Baylor spelled out “c-o-o-k-i-e.”

Baylor did not have to communicate well, however, for his and his family’s faith to inspire people from all walks of life, his father said. People frequently asked them about their faith. Strangers wrote to them “pouring their hearts out” about how Baylor’s story led them to faith, he said.

Another speaker at the service was Nick Mobley, a family minister at Northside and a character coach for Siegel. He shared the verse of Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Mobley added, “Lord we are calling, and we are still searching. Some things I do know about Baylor is … Baylor was a leader on our football team, he was a leader in our school, a leader in our community and he was a great teammate.”

Greg Wyant was Siegel’s football coach when Baylor played there and is now the school’s athletics director. He said, “There’s not a single thing I wouldn’t do for this boy or his family,” and he wanted to “honor a life well-lived.”

He recounted Baylor’s faith and how he led by example, not words, and how even while living with his injuries, he shared his faith with people around the world. Wyant compared Baylor to the biblical stories of Shamgar, who battled the Philistines with a farm implement, “a young man who did what he could.”

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