T.L. Hanna football player honored after death during severe storms

Yellow Jackets, opponents make kind gestures after Evan Kinley’s passing
T.L. Hanna and several of its opponents have made kind gestures to honor lineman Evan Kinley who was hit and killed when a tree fell on him in front of his gran
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 9:04 PM EDT
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ANDERSON, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - T.L. Hanna and several opponents have made kind gestures to honor lineman Evan Kinley, who was hit and killed when a tree fell on him in front of his grandparent’s house on August 7th.

“He never met a stranger. That’s one thing about him,” Evan’s close friend and sophomore lineman Hampton Rainey said. “He never met a stranger, and he was always kind to everyone.”

After Evan’s death, strangers are being kind right back. T.L. Hanna’s opponents have honored Evan this season by wearing his number 52 jersey, holding signs in the crowd, and making other meaningful gestures.

“It’s like a feeling you don’t really describe,” Pedro Martin, another sophomore lineman and close friend of Evan, said. “You have other people saying they’re there for you, and it will be OK. It’s a really good feeling and it will always bring you up and give you hope.”

Pedro was with Evan when a large tree reportedly uprooted, fell, and landed on him during the severe storms in early August.

The Coroner’s Office said the incident happened along Arnold Drive near Kings Road in Anderson at the entrance to the garage of Evan’s grandparents’ house.

That was just a few weeks before T.L. Hanna’s football season began.

“It was hard because he wasn’t there for the first game of the season,” Pedro said. “He always used to try to get us hyped and stuff like that. It was tough not seeing him there in that moment. But it was also a sign saying, ‘Go harder, and go harder for him.’”

At the start of the team’s first game, they sent 10 players onto the field and left a vacant spot at Evan’s lineman position. They took a delay of game penalty to honor their teammate.

Pedro and Hampton ran onto the field together during Friday’s game, holding Evan’s jersey. Hampton says he still feels his late teammate’s presence.

“It was hard for me at the beginning because I play left guard, he’d play right guard, and we were like a team,” Hampton said. “Now that he’s not there, it’s gotten hard, but I know he’s looking down on us grinning, and I know he’s there. It makes me stronger because I feel like I need to do it for Evan and for his family.”

T.L. Hanna Varsity Football Head Coach Jason Tone says Evan was full of life and a joy to be around. He said it’s been an emotional process working through his passing with the JV and varsity teams.

“You don’t really explain it. I don’t know how you explain that. It was very unfortunate,” Tone said. “But we got counselors and things and just, tried to talk to them the best we could. I told them the brevity of it. How short life can be. You’re never guaranteed tomorrow and to make sure you live each day to the fullest.”

Pedro described his close buddy, who was also a volunteer junior firefighter.

“He was a good person. He didn’t want to hurt anybody or hurt anybody’s feelings,” Pedro said. “He was just a great person. If you didn’t love him, I don’t know what to tell you. You might have something going on with you.”

Inspired by Evan, the T.L. Hanna JV team is undefeated this year with a 5-0 record. The team has plans for a special ceremony to honor him again at the team’s last home game against Boiling Springs on October 26th. Included in the ceremony will be a video tribute put together by some of Evan’s closest friends and classmates.