June 28, 2012
by Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –
Synjyn Days is an open-minded young man in ways made more compelling by the fact that he’s so deeply committed to his beliefs. The more you learn about him, the more you become convinced that his two greatest dedications are to God and man – very big-picture conventions with whom interactions can be infinitely personal.
There is rarity in Days’ degree of faith. His warmth and conviction are uncommon.
He still goes home to Marietta every Sunday, even during the school year, to attend the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Although he’s not in the choir anymore he was for a long time even though he said, “I’m not that good; I just kind of blend in.” Understatement alert: Days once wrote and delivered a sermon at Pleasant Grove.
Last week, Georgia Tech’s backup quarterback stood out.
It started with a Facebook message received from a high school friend. A former Hill Grove High School mate lay dying. Days didn’t really know Nick Nutt well, but remembered the face and name. Days’ friend suggested a visit. Nutt thought highly of the young, ol’ QB, and spoke of him.
That message came on Monday.
On Tuesday, the former senior star quarterback tended to the once-upon-a-time freshman football manager. In an Atlanta hospital, they came to know each other a great deal better than before. In short order, they moved beyond a first-name basis.
“I had never seen anyone with Leukemia, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Days said. “His hair was missing, but he was in great spirits. He made a lot of references to God, and my Mom and Dad and I always like to talk about that.”
There, forging a shared bio-rhythm, were Days and a boy with days.
Nutt, 17, died Saturday. The quarterback went to his wake Tuesday. Changing Synjyn Days is no small task. Maybe Nutt didn’t change the QB so much as he empowered him all the more. Days believes more than ever.
A deep soul has grown deeper still in bearing witness to another young man’s peaks and valley. There can be such dignity in death.
“His dad told stories,” Days said. “Once, he had chemo at 3 p.m. and a varsity lacrosse game at 6, and he scored two goals. His dad said he was a warrior. He also said he found Nick praying to God to let him live, but he said, ‘If it’s your will for me to die to save somebody else, then let that be your will.’ “
Nick Nutt loved Georgia Tech, Days said. He was a stellar student. He visited campus multiple times. He didn’t make it to his senior year of high school.
Saturday afternoon, a text message confirming that bombed into Day’s phone.
“Talking to his grandparents and his dad, in the last 24 hours it was just miracles, this presence in his room,” Days said. “He was struggling in his last 10 minutes in and out, and he described seeing the Gates of Heaven, and his crown of gold. There was a hand reaching for him . . . he died with his mouth open.”
Last week, Days gave Nutt one of those rubber bracelets that reads, “God Can’t Fail.” It’s in a casket now.
Before he died, Nutt gave Days a bracelet sayin, “God Is My Strength.” Synjyn was wearing it Thursday, when he said he’s dedicating his season to Nick.
The quarterback said he and his father are trying to help Mr. Nutt – an engineer, although Synjyn wasn’t sure what kind – find a job, and raise funds for expenses.
Days said that the man spent so much time with his son over the last two-plus years of his life that he was unable to work. Now, the QB is uniquely committed to the freshman manager because Nutt left him so much more than wrist wear.
“He died with his mouth open, but when they found him a little later he had a smile on his face and . . . the nurse practitioner said she didn’t touch him,” Days said while smiling as broadly as one ever might.
“He’s in a good place; he’s in heaven. This makes me want to do better, and not take anything for granted. He was a great kid. It’s changed my life forever.”
It feels worth noting that Days was not remotely maudlin in talking about Nick Nutt. He was nearly buoyant. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.