Laney High School honors student who passed away after battle with cancer

DJ McLeod’s fellow classmates, football teammates, and teachers describe him as a leader.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - “DJ STRONG” is the message posted around Laney High School and painted on the large rock outside the front entrance. The message honors DJ McLeod, a former student who passed away last week after a battle with cancer.

McLeod’s fellow classmates, football teammates, and teachers describe him as a leader.

“One thing I always kept in the back of my mind is he’s always fighting. So, if he’s fighting, why can’t we fight? He can’t be out here fighting on the field like he wants to. We’ve got to get stronger, get better, be stronger for him,” said Tione Damon, a student and football player at Laney.

McLeod was one of Jessica Harvey’s first students when she came to the New Hanover County high school. She says though everything, McLeod’s strength was always clear.

“He’s strong in his convictions,” said Harvey. “When he was in my class, he didn’t let things, kind of, deter him from his main focus, which was sports, football, and doing well in school and graduating. I’m so thankful he was able to make those dreams happen.”

Now, those closest to McLeod look forward to honoring his memory on the field and in the classroom. Those efforts continued Thursday as students and staff wore purple for cancer awareness.

“It really makes you think, like Coach [Luke] Little said, I mean, tomorrow is not guaranteed. You’ve got to do everything you can today and, next year, be the best,” said Senior Grayson Strickland.

Strickland and his teammates say this week has been tough, but they are reflecting on their happy memories of McLeod.

“Being in the weight room, he always went hard in the weight room,” said Damon. “Outside around school, even when we weren’t supposed to be on the field, we’d be out here throwing the ball around. He’ll be there right there with us cracking jokes. Just a fun guy.”

The entire Laney campus community is trying to remain “DJ Strong.”

“DJ Strong. That’s who he was before cancer, after cancer, during cancer,” said Harvey.

Laney High School will host a walkathon fundraiser for DJ McLeod and his family on March 25. Click here for more details.