The families and friends of the players, along with much of the Auburn family, gathered in front of Samford Hall to pay their respects.
On Saturday, June 9, six people were shot and three of the six were killed at University Heights, an apartment community in Auburn. The alleged shooter is Desmonte Leonard, who recently turned himself into the police.
Leonard could be charged with three counts of capital murder, and two counts of assault in the first degree.
The ceremony began with several current and former Auburn athletes giving their condolences to the families.
“Not only were they our teammates, but our brothers,” said Daren Bates, senior linebacker for Auburn and teammate and friend of Phillips and Christian. “It’s hard losing a brother. Going out, and knowing that you fought with this person in practice, and just seeing all the sweating they did to come here and try to make something of themselves. It’s hard to see someone you fought with to just go out like that.”
Camille Phillips, mother of Ladarious Phillips, prepared a letter for those gathered at Samford Park. She did not read it, but had a friend speak the words for her.
“On Saturday night, June 9, the life of my beloved son Ladarious “Day Day” Phillips was unexpectedly cut short by a gunman’s bullet,” Camille Phillips’s letter said, “He was taken from a family and a group of friends who loved him beyond measure. Ladarious was my firstborn son, and I as a mother could not have been prouder of the man that he had become at such a young age.”
Other speakers shared testimonies and stories, but when T’Sharvan Bell, an Auburn football player and friend of Phillips and Christian, took his place at the microphone, the rest of the team in attendance joined him.
Bell said the team usually sings “Lean on Me” to celebrate, but tonight they would sing it “not because we like the beat of it, but because it means something to us. We’re telling each other that we love each other…Forever Auburn, forever family.”
The team then broke into their traditional rendition of “Lean on Me,” with much of the audience singing and clapping along.
“A lot of (Auburn) players live in University Heights…and two will forever be missing,” said Jenna Malphrus, senior studying public relations. “It’s a family. Those guys are brothers, and they’re in pain over losing two that they can never bring back.”
The teammates were in pain, but they paid their respects to their fallen brothers in a way that those in attendance will remember forever.
“You just call me brother, when you need a hand,” teammates sang, “We all need somebody to lean on.”