Loyce Dean finally has some much-needed closure.
Just days past the five-year anniversary of her son Mandrell's tragic death, Loyce Dean watched her grandson, Quintaz Struble, sign a letter of intent with Arkansas State on Wednesday morning at Heritage Hall.
“This day was like a brand new start,” Loyce Dean said. “It was like the dead have come alive. I'm so proud of Quintaz, I don't know what to do.”
Mandrell Dean, who scored 85 touchdowns for Millwood during his legendary high school career, was recruited by the likes of Oklahoma, USC, Miami and Florida State.
He committed to OU, but never signed because he couldn't get his ACT score high enough.
After spending more than a decade playing for arena and semipro football teams around the country, Mandrell Dean became involved with a gang and was killed while allegedly committing a home invasion in Oklahoma City.
Quintaz Struble, one of his nine children, was raised by his mother, LaTisha Struble. She enrolled him at Heritage Hall as a freshman and he flourished on the football field.
As a junior, he began getting college football attention while starting for the Class 3A state champion Chargers.
As a senior, Struble was named to The Oklahoman's All-State team, just like his father nearly 20 years before him.
Struble lost offers from Arizona and Colorado State because of coaching changes, and was offered a grayshirt by Wyoming in early January.
Around that time, new Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn hired Keith Patterson as his new defensive coordinator.
Patterson was Pitt's interim coach after Todd Graham left for Arizona State, and was also Graham's defensive coordinator at Tulsa from 2006-2010.
One of Patterson's first orders of business after taking the Arkansas State job was offering Quintaz Struble a scholarship.
“When he got the job, he immediately headed over here because he remembered Quintaz from the state championship game his junior year,” said Heritage Hall coach Andy Bogert.
Patterson was surprised by Struble's lack of offers.
Struble took an official visit to Arkansas State last weekend and committed before he came back home.
“They made me a priority, and that touched me,” Struble said. “I'm excited to be a Red Wolf.”
Struble signed his letter of intent Wednesday surrounded by family and friends. Among them was Curtis DeShazer, one of Mandrell Dean's closest friends and former teammates at Millwood.
“Hopefully Quintaz can pick up his dad's dream,” DeShazer said.
“(Mandrell Dean) really was a good dude. He hadn't accomplished what he wanted, and he was impatient. He took the wrong road and made some bad judgments.”
Quintaz Struble imagined after the ceremony what Wednesday might have been like if his dad was there.
“Me and him would've probably embraced several times and cried,” Quintaz Struble said. “It would have been a very emotional day.”
For Loyce Dean, it was anyway.
“This is one of the happiest days I've had in years,” she said. “It erased a lot, and I feel like a better person.”