This column by Biloxi Sun Herald writer Al Jones was published on Nov. 25, 2010, during the aftermath of the shooting and wounding of three Southern Mississippi football players outside a club in Hattiesburg, Miss.
HATTIESBURG -- It was an early morning phone call on Nov. 14 that Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora will never forget.
The call informed Fedora that three of his football players had been shot in the parking lot of a Hattiesburg night club.
"It was obviously a bad feeling," Fedora said. "I didn't hear the phone. My son, Dillon, came down the stairs and woke me up after (defensive coordinator) Todd (Bradford) called him.
"Dillon said 'Dad, there's an emergency.' As soon as I got on the phone with Todd, my stomach turned upside down. It was a terrible feeling. It was a terrible feeling driving to the hospital. Then I got to the hospital and saw the ordeal and that was really tough."
Shot were linebackers Martez Smith, Tim Green and defensive end Deddrick Jones.
"They are three of my kids," Fedora said. "They are just like my own sons and that was a very difficult thing to see. I can tell you there is no class that you can take to prepare you for something like this.
"All I could draw on were the things the game of football teaches you on how to overcome what life throws at you."
With his players fighting to recover at Forrest General Hospital, Fedora needed help to deal with the matter.
One phone call went to Randy Edsall, head coach at the University of Connecticut. It was during the 2009 season when Edsall dealt with the loss of Jasper Howard, a junior defensive back who was stabbed to death in a campus fight.
"I needed to talk with somebody," Fedora said. "I had never met Randy Edsall but I knew he dealt with something similar last year. Randy was more than happy to visit with me.
"I also talked with Grant Teaff, the director of the American Football Coaches Association, who I worked with at Baylor, as well as Fisher DeBerry. They were all helpful."
After arriving at the hospital, Fedora admits the sight of Green, Jones and Smith in the ICU was a hard pill to swallow.
A few short hours earlier, Jones and Green helped the Golden Eagles pick up a crucial win at then-No. 23 Central Florida.
As Fedora sat at the hospital, his first thought was for their complete recovery. Fedora also came to the conclusion that neither he, nor the staff, did anything wrong.
"I never felt that way (take blame)," Fedora said. "I am totally at peace knowing we can't be with these kids 24 hours a day. You talk about not putting yourself in a bad situation. For whatever reason, they were in that situation.
"I would like to emphasize that the doctors, nurses, law enforcement and the hospital security staff made this easier. They were incredible and that made me feel better. We all had a lot of support, including the university, and that helped us get through a very tough week."
Today, the Golden Eagles are scheduled to leave Hattiesburg at 4 p.m. for Friday's game at Tulsa.
As the team attempts to win its ninth game of the season against three defeats, Smith, Green and Jones will be with the Golden Eagles in spirit.
"We have a lot to be thankful for," Fedora said. "All three survived and all three will lead productive lives. This is not the end for those three or for me. This is another lesson and step that we all can and should learn from.
"As a coach, we are there for the players whether they are injured or not. That's one of the reasons that I am in this profession. They are still members of our football team."
Smith made an unexpected visit to Robertson Stadium a few minutes for senior night ceremonies before a 49-28 win against Houston last Saturday.
"We have so much to be thankful for," Fedora said.