Family members of late University of Maine football player Darius Minor of Locust Grove, Va., stand on Morse Field prior to Thursday night's game against New Hampshire at Alfond Stadium in Orono. UMaine athletics honored the UMaine freshman, who died unexpectedly during a July 24 workout with a moment of silence in Minor's honor, retired his jersey No. 39 for the next four years and the players wore helmet decals with "DM 39." Peter Buehner Photo

ORONO, Maine — Rob Otey made a promise to Darius Minor that if he was going to be on the field for just one play for the University of Maine football team, Otey was going to make the long journey to Orono from Virginia to watch him.

Minor collapsed and died from a rare heart disorder during a drill for UMaine freshmen July 24, but Otey and 17 other family members were on hand for the Black Bears’ opener against archrival New Hampshire Thursday night at Morse Field.

“He may not be here physically, but he’s here. And that’s a big reason we’re here,” said the 33-year-old Otey, who was Minor’s cousin by marriage.

His death has taken a toll on the family, but Otey said they are staying together.

“We travel in numbers. We want to represent ‘Bubby’ as he deserves,” Otey said. “He deserves nothing but the best and that’s why we came here to honor him.”

Bubby was Minor’s nickname.

Otey closely followed Minor’s career, attending his games and other events such as awards ceremonies.

“That’s something I’ve always done with him,” Otey said.

He went on all of Minor’s recruiting visits except the one to UMaine because it was snowing and driving in snow is not something he is used to.

He said Minor was recruited by a school that was much larger than UMaine, and it was at the top of Minor’s list.

But after Minor visited Orono, he was sold on it.

“He told me it feels like home,” Otey said. “He felt very strongly about the University of Maine.

“It wasn’t my first choice, obviously, because of the distance. But I told him as long as he didn’t redshirt, if he was on the field for one play or every play, I was going to make the trip,” said Otey, who will honor his promise to Minor by also attending UMaine road games this fall at William & Mary and Richmond, which are both in Virginia, and at Towson in Maryland.

Otey said Minor had been optimistic about getting playing time as a true freshman defensive back this season.

“He felt good. He felt he was going to get a lot of playing time this year,” Otey said.

“The coaches were confident. They felt he was going to be on the field, that he could have been an impact player.”

UMaine held a moment of silence for Minor before the game and his No. 39 jersey will not be worn for four years. The Black Bears are wearing a decal “DM 39” on their helmets.

Otey said he and the family have felt that UMaine has handled the tragedy with compassion and caring.

“The whole staff, starting with Coach Joe [Harasymiak] and Jim [interim athletic director Jim Settele] has been first class from start to finish,” Otey said.

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