Six-man football team retiring jersey of beloved teammate

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 10:47 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 27 at 5:26 PM

CLEBURNE -- It isn't fair that No. 5 isn't at practice or games, or in his Cleburne home that was always filled with laughter.

His family still laughs, because it's what Caleb would have wanted.

"We've learned so many lessons over the last ten months about how to grieve," said Caleb's father, Mark Midkiff. "But I think one of the best lessons is how to let go."

"All the fun things - the good qualities Caleb had - would be lessened if we just tried to hang on," he said.

Caleb Midkiff died the day after Thanksgiving. His heart suddenly stopped. He was 13 years old.

"We know what happened, we don't know why it happened," his father said.

The medical examiner could find no explanation.

"All we know is we had a normal healthy 13-year-old boy with no problems. Structurally, his heart was sound," Mr. Midkiff said. "Our faith tells us it was his time. And who am I to question that?"

Caleb had four brothers and one sister. He was a dancer, an actor, and a JV player in a six-man football program for home school students in the Johnson County Sports Association.

The varsity quarterback is one of his big brothers. And Caleb's father is one of the coaches.

"One of my dreams was to play my senior year and his freshman year  He was good enough to be on the varsity starting team, so when I go out there and I see my receivers out there, I  picture him," said Caleb's brother, Aaron. "You love the memories, you love the life, and then the next goal is to keep moving on and keep moving forward."

"My real goal is to honor him in what I do," he said.

Aaron said Caleb was always respectful during practice and games, not raising his voice, and never criticizing someone for making a mistake. Caleb lived his life that way, said his father.

"Caleb was a hero to the underdog," Mr. Midkiff said. "Everybody has value and they need to be treated that way, and that's the thing I celebrate about Caleb: there are all types of people that he was a friend to."

Friday night, Caleb's No. 5 jersey will be retired. No one in the Johnson County Sports Association (JCSA) will ever wear the number again.

Jamie Stanford of the JCSA said it was the right thing to do.

"When people pass away, they leave a big hole in your heart. But when he passed away, he left a crater," she said. "He was a big, big presence on our football team."

He scored 50 touchdowns last season, she said.

His brother, Benjamin, said football was a special part of Caleb's life.

"The feeling of a team was so satisfactory to him; he just loved playing the game," Benjamin said.

"I feel so honored that they're choosing to give that jersey to us," said his sister, Hannah, who gave birth the week after her brother died.

It seems no one could have worn the No. 5 the way Caleb did -- with dignity and pride. Now his family hopes more people will live the way Caleb did: judging less and loving more.

"There is an urgency to love each other, because you never know," Mark Midkiff said. "You never know."

His team is playing with a new motto this year: "Achieve your fifty," in honor of Caleb's touchdowns.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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