Saying goodbye to Devin Topps: A story and a slide show about former Kentridge star athlete

Devin Topps leaned over to Alex Tyson, his best friend and Kentridge High School football teammate. So many people congratulated them after one of their victories that Topps wanted to put the moment in perspective. "Alex, we're all-stars," Topps said. Tyson told that story as he joined a church full of friends and family Thursday to turn a funeral service into an emotional celebration for their fallen all-star. They honored the 18-year-old with a tribute of music, poems and stories.

Kentridge students Taija Bjorgo-Robertson

Kentridge students Taija Bjorgo-Robertson

Devin Topps leaned over to Alex Tyson, his best friend and Kentridge High School football teammate. So many people congratulated them after one of their victories that Topps wanted to put the moment in perspective.

“Alex, we’re all-stars,” Topps said.

Tyson told that story as he joined a church full of friends and family Thursday to turn a funeral service into an emotional celebration for their fallen all-star. They honored the 18-year-old with a tribute of music, poems and stories.

A standing-room only crowd of nearly 1,000 people packed the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship church in Renton for the two-hour service. Many guests rode shuttle buses to the service from nearby parking lots because the church lot filled with cars so quickly.

“We are here to pay tribute to one of God’s children who is gone too soon,” said the Rev. Leslie Braxton of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship church.

Topps died Oct. 31 after being shot outside of a house party in Kent. Kent Police are trying to determine who the shooter was and what happened that night. No arrests have been made.

Thursday’s event wasn’t about the tragedy so much as the life of promise that Topps lived. People turned out to celebrate the 18-year-old, who had been such a leader on the football field and the basketball court. Hundreds of high school students were in the crowd, including about two dozen football players who wore their Kentridge jerseys.

Kentridge football coach Marty Osborn related to the servicegoers that he met Topps as a freshman. Osborn soon discovered he had an outstanding linebacker, running back and leader.

“He had the ability to light up a room with his smile and personality,” Osborn told the crowd. “And he was the happiest when he was around family and friends.”

Kentridge players presented to Topps’ family with two large-framed photo collections of the all-star playing football. Topps signed a letter of intent to play football at Eastern Washington University, but came up a few credits short and did not enroll this fall in the college.

“Had he made it to Eastern, he would’ve had a great career,” Osborn said.

Several friends wrote poems that they shared at the service. Each wore black Chicago White Sox baseball caps – Topps’ favorite headgear – as they spoke about how much their friend meant to them.

Laron Daniels and Shaquielle McKissic wrote and performed a rap song called “Come Home,” in tribute. Daniels and McKissic each played basketball with Topps at Kentridge.

“You live on through all of us,” they rapped. “Your legacy will never die. You are forever in our heart.”

Daniels and McKissic then finished with a final verse.

“In memory of Devin Topps, hold your fist in the air.”

A forest of fists punched into the air.

The performances by the poets and rappers impressed Braxton, the pastor who ran the service.

“That’s the way you honor a brother – with dignity and class,” Braxton said. “Give these young men a hand.”

Nine cousins and nephews of Topps played conga and other drums as part of the Davis Rhythm Team. Many in the audience clapped with the drums.

“Devin is our superstar,” the lead drummer said prior to the performance.

Survivors include his mother Latonda Elise Topps; his father Nathan Lee Beeler-Bell; his brother Kobe Smith; his grandparents Katherine Howe, Evelyn Cecelia Beeler, Johnny Perryman and Josiah Bell; and his great grandfather Charles Thomas Beeler, who is 98 years old.

Evangelist Janice Davis Shepherd, of Radical Faith Christian Center in Humble, Texas, gave a eulogy to her cousin. She carried a football during part of the eulogy.

“Devin acknowledged it was God in him that allowed him to run and make a touchdown,” Shepherd said. “And now Devin you have made your final touchdown.”

Before everyone left the church, Braxton gave one final thought.

“Devin is now gone,” he said. “But live for him. Fulfill the dreams that went unfulfilled for him.”

For donations, the community has established the “Devin Topps Memorial Fund” through any U.S. Bank.


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