MATTAPAN, Mass. – As Odin Lloyd's coffin was lifted into the hearse, a chant went up from men wearing blue football jerseys.
"Odin! Odin! Odin!"
Then the door of the black car was closed, and the men stumbled away, tears streaming down their faces.
More than 500 people arrived at a church here Saturday to grieve for a man who spent his life playing for crowds of only a few dozen. Odin Lloyd, the exuberant semi-pro linebacker from St. Croix who died in one of the worst ways imaginable, was remembered in one of the best ways possible.
Lloyd's body was discovered on June 17 in an industrial park near former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's home in North Attleboro. Police say Lloyd was shot and killed after 3 a.m. that morning. Hernandez has been charged with orchestrating the shooting. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Lloyd's sister, Olivia, told mourners assembled in The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit on Saturday about her brother's favorite flip-flops, with the soles nearly worn away, and his "stinky feet." Odin took pride in both, she said, because they showed he worked hard that day.
Lloyd, 27, didn't own a car; he often biked 20 miles to work. "When the world upgraded to iPhones and Androids," his sister said, "Odin was happy with his old-school BlackBerry that still picked up calls."
At the end of the service, one of Lloyd's pallbearers leaned over the coffin and sobbed.
"He meant a lot to a lot of people," said Sonia Alleyn, one of the church's board members. "You felt like you knew him just from the service."
Many friends and family didn't even hear the eulogy, as the church could only fit around 425 people even with more than 100 extra chairs added. Some of Lloyd's Boston Bandits teammates, who had huddled outside before the service, cheering "1-2-3-Odin," had to remain outside during the two-hour ceremony. They stood in the morning drizzle, speaking quietly and hugging friends and strangers. The sun started to come out, which some took as a sign that Odin was going to watch over their season-opening game Saturday night. Some players held the funeral program, which had a photo of Lloyd in a Red Sox cap, and a quote at the top saying, "Justice should be the key to life."
Inside the church, the reverend urged the mourners not to harbor resentment about the killing of a young man. "Vengeance is mine," he said, quoting Romans 12:19. Outside, one of Lloyd's teammates, Wendell Delk, echoed that sentiment: "Players are not angry," he said. "We have no animosity. We just want closure for the team."
Yet there was an undercurrent of anger as well. One woman emerged from the funeral and yelled to the waiting media, "What are you taking pictures of? You have a murderer on your hands!"
Steps away, Lloyd's teammates spoke of their game Saturday night, to be played only hours after the burial. They are dedicating the entire season to their fallen brother, yet this exhibition will probably mean more to them than any game they will ever play.
"I gotta go settle down," said Bandits general manager Mike Branch, who recruited Lloyd to the team from John O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science as a way of protecting him. "These streets are mean," Branch said. "I like to keep my guys around me."
Branch was looking out for Lloyd right up until the weekend before his death. He pulled out his cell phone and showed a text message conversation with Lloyd, who explained that he missed a practice because he was a little bit sick. "Can you make it Saturday?" Branch wrote. "Need the Beast!"
Lloyd did show up Saturday – his final practice.
Two days later, Massachusetts authorities say, Lloyd was in the car with Hernandez, texting his sister and asking her if she saw who picked him up from his home at such a late hour. "NFL," he allegedly wrote. "Just so you know."
Minutes after that, according to the prosecution, Lloyd was shot five times.
News of his death, and the connection to a Patriots star, rattled everyone who knew the man they called 'O.'
"Just shocked and appalled," said teammate Ike Andersy. "Everyone who knew him wanted to know why."
They still wanted to know why, even as they showed up Saturday as early as 7:30 a.m., filling up street parking for up to a mile around. Close friends and family members attended the viewing, which began two hours before the funeral.
"It was very emotional," Branch said, "seeing him like that."
The Bandits will try to start their season without one of their emotional leaders, one who would scream the loudest even if the team was losing badly. "That's who he was," Delk said, wearing a game jersey. "He bleeds blue and yellow."
That was the picture everyone painted of Lloyd on Saturday – someone who didn't get down even when circumstances did.
"As long as I have life," Lloyd would say, "I'm going to smile."
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