Derek Durant, right, channeled his high school years playing football into his sons, from left, Kyle and Kevin.

Appreciation: Lynn sporting community suffers a big loss with death of Derek Durant

LYNN —  What made Derek Durant special in the eyes of his family and friends was that he was just a regular guy whom people naturally liked and respected.

And that, they say, made him remarkable.

"That sums him up perfectly," his older brother, Scott, said Sunday morning, one day after Derek died at the age of 47 from the cancer he only found out he had Sept. 29.

"He was just a regular guy," Scott said. "And everybody I knew liked him. He just had that type of personality. He made people feel comfortable, he treated people with respect and people respected him."

Durant, second oldest of Butch and Joanne Durant's four children, was an athlete. He was the starting quarterback for Lynn Classical in the late 1980s under coach Dave Dempsey, but he was not one to bask in high school glory days. Instead, he channeled those years on the high school playing fields into his two sons, Kevin and Kyle, and their friends. He coached at Pine Hill Little League, Lynn Babe Ruth, and West Lynn Pop Warner.

"He lived for those kids," said younger brother Keith. "He was so proud of them. He taught them to play whatever they wanted to play, and he taught them to play the right way."

Kevin Durant, now a freshman cross country runner at Framingham State, was a member of the 2016 Babe Ruth baseball team that competed in the 2016 15-year-old World Series, and later was a defensive wizard as the Classical center fielder.

Kyle was a kicker on this year's Classical football team and has begun playing basketball for the Rams as well.

And, when family involvement made it necessary, the man who bled Classical green became an English fan when his nephew, Jordan Javier (son of his sister, Amy), played quarterback for the Bulldogs.

For all his involvement, said Pine Hill president Jill Avery, he didn't force himself on any organization to which he belonged. He was quite the opposite, she said.

"He was a quiet kind of guy," said Avery. "But underneath that, he had a heart of gold.

"All he wanted was to be on the field, teaching kids how to play," she said. "It wasn't important to him that he run anything, or that he be the manager. He just wanted to be there, and that's where he was."

In fact, she said, the Durants were quite a formidable team.

"Carolee (his wife whom he had dated since they were 15), ran the snack bar while they were down here, and she had it down to a science. She did a fabulous job with it.

"When they left (after Kyle aged out at 12), I missed them both up here," she said. "I can't wrap myself around (his death)."

Both his brothers recall that Derek Durant's athletic idol growing up was Joe Montana.

"He worshipped him," said Keith. "That's why he always wore No. 16 when he played. Then, of course, he became a big Tom Brady fan. He always said his idols were the two best quarterbacks to ever play."

Dempsey recalled his toughness.

"I remember him the first day I saw him (during) his freshman year for Lynn Classical football," Dempsey wrote on the team's alumni Facebook site. "I always loved his toughness, but more importantly I loved him as a person. "He made coaching fun, and he was always respectful and kind."

That toughness was why a lot of his friends weren't aware that he was sick.

"He didn't really want to tell anyone at first," said Scott. "He was a quiet guy."

Scott said he made it to four of Kyle's games this fall before being diagnosed.

"After that," he said, "Derek couldn't go out much."

Avery recalls that one very important aspect of Durant's personality was that he always knew where he came from. "I ran into him not too long ago, and he was wearing a Pine Hill Little League shirt.

"It made me chuckle," she said. "By then, both of his kids were all done with Little League, but he still wore our shirt."

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