Minneapolis North High honors slain quarterback during first game of season

Deshaun Hill was 15 and a sophomore when he was fatally shot near the school in February.

Players celebrate after a touchdown
After scoring a touchdown during their first game of the season last week, North High junior linebacker Cashmere Grunau (30), shows an undershirt honoring teammate Deshaun Hill who was shot and killed in February.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

People filled the bleachers for North High’s first football game of the season Sept. 2 in Minneapolis.

As is game day tradition, players walked together from the school to the football field up the street. Among them was junior linebacker Khalil Brown holding the jersey of his good friend, Deshaun Hill, number nine. Deshaun, the team’s quarterback, was tragically shot and killed in February at age 15.

“It’s hard to wrap your mind around it,” Khalil said. “Day to day I get better and better with dealing with it. I say to myself, ‘I have to keep going and keep going for him.’”

The two had known each other since elementary school.

North Community High School’s tight-knit community came out in strong support of the team’s season opener against St. Paul’s Johnson Senior High School.

With around 400 students, North is the smallest of Minneapolis’ traditional public high schools. There were smiles, hugs and cheers among the crowd. Excitement was in the air about the new school year and football season. And Deshaun’s memory held present.

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Many in the crowd wore shirts and pins that commemorated Deshaun and denounced gun violence. Juniors wore green in his memory.

On a Wednesday in February, Deshaun was walking down a sidewalk in north Minneapolis near the school when he was killed in a senseless act of violence. Days later, prosecutors charged Cody Logan Fohrenkam, who was 29 at the time, with second-degree murder in his death, but a motive was unclear. A trial is set for Oct. 3.

Deshaun’s teammates began their game one player short — no quarterback — to honor his absence. The team also plans to retire jersey number nine, making Deshaun the last North football player to wear the number. He excelled in other sports at North including basketball and was an honor roll student. His friends remembered him as funny and hardworking.

North football head coach Charles Adams III said Deshaun is “truly missed” and that this season has been challenging for the players as they grieve their teammate, classmate and friend.

Adams, a North High alumnus, said he sees more focus and a greater sense of urgency on the team already this season.

“I gotta keep on leading these young men through adversity, and we’re definitely going to honor D-Hill while we’re doing it,” Adams said.

After a sweeping 48-6 victory over Johnson, the Polars’ next challenge is Friday, Sept. 9 against Fridley High School.