University of Miami

Canes’ Denzel Perryman honors deceased fan

Georgia Tech running back David Sims had just dashed untouched into the end zone to come within one easy extra point of a tie with the Miami Hurricanes.

Linebacker Denzel Perryman watched in disbelief as the ball went wide left and the score remained 24-23.

“At that moment I pointed to the sky for everyone who’s up there, including Jordan,” Perryman said after the 45-30 victory Saturday kept UM undefeated at 5-0. “I felt like it was a blessing from up top.”

Perryman, who had a game-high 11 tackles, has dedicated his season to the memory of a community college student and former football player he never met.

Jordan Kyle Denion, a high school lineman who reached the Maryland Class 2A state title game in 2010, died of a brain aneurysm Feb. 18 while taking a nap before dinner in his quaint hometown of Middletown, Md. He was 20.

“I’ve heard so much about how he looked up to me and was my biggest fan,” Perryman said. “I’ll be 21 in December. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone.”

Denion’s father, Robert, was gratified by Perryman’s declaration on Facebook and Twitter that simply stated, “RIP to one of my biggest supporters Jordan Denion. It’s sad I never got to meet you but I will dedicate this season to you.”

Robert Denion, his wife Teresa and two other sons received a condolence card signed by coach Al Golden, quarterback Stephen Morris, safety Deon Bush, receiver Herb Waters and lineman Sunny Odogwu. Golden later sent a long personal letter thanking the family for donating a 12-by-12-inch memorial brick at the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

The family and fans, most of whom had never met Jordan but communicated with him on the Internet, raised $1,500 for the brick.

Perryman said he heard about Denion, an avid UM message-board poster, from a close friend. Another friend gave Perryman a T-shirt with Denion’s photo and the Irish blessing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You,” on the back. Perryman, who leads UM with 34 tackles, wore the T-shirt after the Georgia Tech game.

“It hangs at the front of my closet so it’s the first shirt I see,” Perryman said. “I never wear it at practice. I don’t want to mess it up playing football.’”

Robert Denion, a computer network engineer, still grieves for “Jordy,” but has taken solace in the great support by fellow fans and Middletown community members. Teresa Denion still can’t talk about her son publicly.

More than 2,000 people from the tiny town of just over 4,000 attended Jordan’s viewing.

Honoring a memory

The youth football players in the Middletown Valley Athletic Association (MVAA), where Denion played from elementary school through middle school, had his jersey No. 75 inscribed on every helmet this season. A 12-year-old named Joey Felton told his dad he wanted to dedicate his first touchdown of the season to Jordan, then took the first play from scrimmage and swept to the right for a 75-yard touchdown — the significance of the TD and “75” blowing away Jordan’s dad.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I can’t believe what I just saw,” Robert Denion, who spends Saturdays watching MVAA youth games, said of Felton’s touchdown. “It was almost like divine intervention.”

Robert Denion wrote Perryman a letter of gratitude. “Here’s a kid who is a football star and he never met my son and had kind words for him. Him wearing that T-shirt — what a nice thing to do. It means a lot to our family.”

Jordan Denion’s high school coach, Kevin Lynott, has led the Middletown Knights to two consecutive state titles since Jordan’s team lost 21-14 to McDonough in the 2010 final. He said Denion was a 195-pounder who played defensive tackle and on an offensive line that averaged 175 pounds.

“He was a high-character kid who totally led by example,” said Lynott, who noted Jordan never sustained a concussion or head injury. “We have a tight-knit community, and it was sad to see someone so young pass away.”

Denion’s high school teammate, Chris Pirrone, a receiver for the NCAA Division II Shippensburg (Pa.) Red Raiders, said Denion “was the nicest, most caring kid I grew up with. He never complained, loved animals and was an amazingly strong football player. His strength was ridiculous.

“I freaked out when he died. It’s just not fair.”

Becoming a UM fan

Denion’s oldest brother, Wes, is a systems engineer and longtime Hurricanes fan who introduced him to the UM program from afar. Over the years, the two went to three away games, all of which were Miami losses.

Wes said Denion didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t smoke and worked out religiously.

“Every Saturday, he’d come over, sit at my house and watch the UM game with my kids running around in the background,” said Wes, 34. “The first game we ever watched together was the game they lost to Washington in 2000 before UM’s long winning streak and [2001] national title.

“It kicks me every Saturday. They’re finally back winning and Jordy is not here watching with me.”

This season, Wes brought his iPad and Denion’s green No. 52 Perryman jersey to the cemetery to stream the first quarter of the UM-Florida game.

“I figured we needed some luck,” the big brother said.

Indeed, UM went on to win 21-16.

“I miss him,” Wes said.

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