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Woman makes play about brother slain 20 years ago in Saginaw

By BOB JOHNSONMarch 18, 2019

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Daniel D. Smothers played on one of the best high school football teams in the state’s history: the 1999 Saginaw High Trojans.

But while 24 of his 37 teammates went on to play college football, including 10 who played in NCAA Division I, Smothers did not.

While six of them went on to play in the NFL and won a combined three Super Bowl rings, Smothers wasn’t there. He also was not there when another teammate entered the NBA.

That’s because a stray bullet took his life the day after New Year’s Day 20 years ago. As a senior in high school, Smothers did not get a chance to walk across the stage with classmates in 1999, though he was awarded his diploma posthumously that year.

Shivetta Smothers was 16 years old when her brother died. Now she wants to tell his story as a tribute to him to mark 20 years since he’s been gone, MLive.com reported.

She is producing a play about his life. Auditions for “My Brother’s Keeper” will take place at the Buena Vista Community Center.

Inspiration for the play was drawn from the success that many of her brother’s classmates have achieved over the years.

“Some of his classmates have gone on to be successful,” Smothers said. “So just because he is gone does not mean I can’t tell his story.”

Smothers was an honors student and star football player at Saginaw High. He had a full-ride football scholarship from McPherson College in the small town of the same name in central Kansas.

His sister describes him as an all-around athlete. He played basketball and baseball, ran track and participated in fishing competitions.

A small section of his mother’s home serves as a shrine to Smothers’ accomplishments. Trophies, medals, varsity letters, news articles and jerseys are on display on an upstairs wall and shelf.

Smothers’ mom, Debry Davis, said she reminisces about her son often.

“Everyday of my life I think about him,” Davis said. “Somedays I can’t even get out of the bed.”

For the 10-year 1999 class reunion, Smothers’ classmates started the Daniel D. Smothers Memorial Scholarship which is hosted by the Saginaw Community Foundation. The goal was to raise $20,000 for the endowment to provide $1,000 scholarships to graduating Saginaw High seniors.

Though the scholarship is still at the foundation, there has been no activity for several years according to LeeAnn Martuch, program officer with the Saginaw Community Foundation.

“It is still listed, which means that we can accept donations,” Martuch said. “If we get enough, we can start awarding from it again.”

Smothers’ sister said it is her wish to have the fund active in time for the 20-year-class reunion.

Shortly after 1 a.m., Andrei L. Williams, then 21, had shot into the home where Smothers was attending a party. The bullet struck Smothers in the head, according to previous media reports.

There is no evidence showing Williams and Smothers knew each other, and no evidence suggesting that Smothers was the intended target.

“That was my mom’s first time letting him go to a party,” Shivetta Smothers said.

A Saginaw County jury convicted Williams of Saginaw of second-degree murder and possessing a firearm while committing a felony in Smothers’ death. He was sentenced to serve 39 to 60 years in prison. His earliest release date is 2040.

“When he comes up for parole I will be there,” Davis said.

The play will be a sort of healing for Shivetta Smothers, who said she never got a chance to fully grieve over her brother’s death.

“A lot of people deal with death a lot of different ways,” she said. “This is like therapy for me.”

The play will take place on June 16 with the location to be determined.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com

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