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Before his best friend drove too fast and lost control of the wheel of the red Corvette his mother had rented him on prom night, and before Demetrius Palmer spent several days in a coma and three weeks in the hospital fighting for his life, he had a vision of what his future might look like.
“Me an TJ used to talk all the time about how when we got to college and played football we would call each other every day, and then when football was over we’d go and visit each other,” Palmer, a 17-year-old senior-to-be at Deerfield Beach High, recalled Thursday afternoon.
“When I went to visit TJ at his grave last week I remembered that. He was a very funny person. Me and him, we’d do the same things, talk the same, dance the same. He was very fast. We’d race and he’d beat me. He was fun to be around. I miss him every day.”
Taletrius “TJ” Bradley, 19, died May 30 – a few days before his high school graduation – from brain injuries sustained when he and Palmer were ejected from their seats in a single-car accident off State Road 7 and Sunrise Boulevard a few hours after Bradley had attended prom in the fancy sportscar his mother had rented him.
Thursday night, the Bucks football team, state semifinalists last year, honored Bradley’s memory with a moment of silence prior to a preseason football game against nationally ranked Chaminade-Madonna on campus. Tears flowed throughout the stadium for Bradley, a former slot receiver whom coach Jevon Glenn said was going to play football at a small college in the Tampa area after he graduated.
Tammie Wilson-Singletary, Bradley’s mother, knew it was going to be a difficult, emotionally charged night for her to handle. But it’s something she said she needed to do as she deals with the grief of losing her only child.
“I can’t even be around a teenage kid right now – it breaks my heart,” Wilson-Singletary, 35, said by phone Thursday afternoon. “I can talk to them through social media, but I just can’t be around kids right now. Even though people have tried to give me words of encouragement, me and TJ were together for 19 years. We practically grew up together. We’ve been through a lot of stuff. There was no father, no husband involved – just me and him. There’s not one day I don’t look up at the stars and don’t end up crying. He’s always going to be my baby boy.”
Wilson-Singletary, a nurse, said she hasn’t been back to work since her son’s passing. Friends set up a GoFundMe page and raised more than $5,000 to help pay for her son’s funeral. But bills are still piling up and Wilson-Singletary said she’s broke both financially and emotionally (she has her own GoFundMe page).
Several Deerfield Beach players have remained close to her since the accident. Star linebacker Rosendo Louis, a Florida State commitment, said he and several players visited her for her birthday last month.
“She’s a strong woman,” Louis said. “I pray for her and Demetrius. It’s a great feeling seeing how Demetrius is trying to come back and play football.”
Palmer, a starting cornerback last season with scholarship offers to Morgan State, Liberty and North Carolina Central before the car accident, has not been cleared by doctors to return to action, but remains hopeful he will in the future. He says he broke his shoulder, hip and sustained some memory loss in the accident. He goes to therapy for all of his ailments two to three times a week.
“The only thing I’m really worried about is my brain,” said Palmer, who has a 3.2 GPA. “I’m hoping by the middle of the season or end of the season, I’ll get a chance to play. I’m starting to remember parts of the night of the accident, but not everything. I go through these mental exercises to help my memory. But I forget stuff every now and then.”
Palmer didn’t go to prom with Bradley. He said he was in bed sleeping when Bradley called him after he had dropped off his prom date. He ended up joining Bradley for a late night spin.
Palmer said friends who were in another car behind him and Bradley when the accident occurred told him his best friend simply lost control of the car on wet pavement. Palmer insists drugs and alcohol were not involved.
Wilson-Singletary, who said she received a lot of hurtful criticism from the public for renting her son a sportscar for prom, said she warned TJ until she “was blue in the face” about driving safely the night of the accident.
“I don’t think my son was doing something no other kid wouldn’t have done. He was having fun and it got out of control,” she said. “I don’t blame him for that. It can happen to any kid at any time in any car. He was going a little too fast. That’s been my message to all the kids who have reached out to me. I’m giving them a lot of encouragement to do the right things in life and stop thinking about cars and clothes and sex and whatever else teenagers think about. Just try to slow down in these streets. They have nothing to offer but jail or the grave.”