Crowds came out to Petoskey's first high school football game of the season, but it was not just to support the Northmen.
A different emotion was in the air Friday night as they honored one of their own: Heath Robinson, a Navy SEAL who died in combat two years ago.
After graduating in 1995, Heath joined the military, but in August of 2011, his life was cut short when he was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
At the game Friday night, Robinson's family, former coaches and teammates retired his number 21 jersey.
â??This is a great way for Heath, in this capacity for the city and ourselves, and to give him some recognition for something that he loved,â?? said Dan Robinson, Heathâ??s father.
A group of veterans met mid-field before the game for a presentation of the flag and the singing of God Bless America.
The coin toss to start the game was also part of the tribute. Game officials used a commemorative navy seal coin. That coin and Heath's jersey will now be put on display at Petoskey High School where Robinson graduated and was a captain for the football team.
â??It's a nice tribute not only for Heath but for any servicemen to be honored the way Heath was tonight,â?? said John Poquette, a former teammate.
From now on Petoskeyâ??s team captains will wear the number 21 on their chest. Teammates said the patch will help them remember a player that carried his passion from the football field to battle field.
â??He was the epitome of being a captain,â?? said Dan Thorn, a former teammate. â??He was always tenacious in everything he did, everything he didâ??whether it was with his friends at school or in sports. Number 21 is a great example for the kids we have coming up.â??
â??He had a lot of character, a lot of charisma,â?? said Mike Loper, Heathâ??s former coach. â??He played hard, played with a lot of intensity.â??
Although he took that intensity overseas, Heath's dad said growing up in Petoskey shaped the man he became.
â??He enjoyed playing football. He took that tenacity he had out on the field right into his job as a navy SEAL. The teamwork and bond of the brotherhood and those things, he learned right here in this town,â?? said Robinson.
Robinson said a brand new scholarship fund will also be established in his son's name.