WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Hitting the field Tuesday afternoon, the Harrison H.S. Raiders football team gets to work.
For many players, instead of focusing on running drills at practice, they're thinking about their former teammate, Omarion Dixon.
"He was ... he was my brother, really," said senior quarterback Ben Henderson.
Henderson said Dixon is a tough player, but a great friend and fun to be around.
"Smile, laugh, cry, went to work with him, did everything with him really," Henderson said.
Dixon was one of five Indiana State University students involved in a fiery crash near Terre Haute early Sunday morning.
Christian Eubanks, Jayden Musili and Caleb VanHooser were killed. Dixon and John Moore were seriously injured in the crash.
"Coach Mallory called me at 8 o'clock in the morning on Sunday morning and said, 'I have some terrible news.' And at that point, we weren't sure if Omarion was going to live. He had some internal bleeding, he was scheduled for surgery at that time," said Harrison head coach Terry Peebles.
Peebles said he went to visit Dixon in the hospital soon after the crash, getting to see his former player already improving, able to move around a bit, even try to smile. But Peebles said Dixon's road to recovery will be a long one.
"His life is going to be in the hands of surgeons and physical therapists and God for years. He is really, really beat up. If he wasn't such a big, strong, physical kid, there's no way he would have possibly survived that crash," Peebles said.
So Tuesday afternoon, after practice, Peebles called his team together.
"What I am going to ask you to do today is take a minute or two and think about one of our family members. Omarion is one of our family members," Peebles said, speaking to his team. "Just form a circle for him as an O, just let him know we're thinking about him. I'd appreciate it. Alright, let's form it up."
"O, I love you, I'm praying for you every second of the day and I really wish for a speedy recovery," said defensive lineman Josh McKelvin.
"Anyone that plays on this field with us is family. And we all have each other's backs. So when something like this happens, we're always going to be here for whoever it is. Especially O," said strong safety Gavin Goodwin.
“I owe it to him. I mean, he gave so much to the coaching staff up here, the school community. Everybody loved the kid. I mean, he’s just one of those guys that everybody kind of rallied around, everybody was so happy for him when he went off to college, things were going great. And you know, things can change just on a dime like this, it’s terrible,” Peebles said.
The team, hopeful this small gesture toward their former teammate will find a way into his hospital room.
"So we just wanted to send him our prayers while he's in the hospital recovering," Henderson said.
They're hopeful that knowing his football family will be out on the field, rooting for Dixon once more, it will help him along the road to recovery after the crash.
"Any way we can help him in his fight here to rehab, to get better and go through some of the many, many surgeries he's going to have to have, we'll do whatever it takes," Peebles said.
The Raiders plan to carry Dixon's jersey out onto the field Friday night to show their support for their former teammate, encouraging him on his recovery.