GREENSBORO, N.C. -- High schools around the Triad had packed stands for playoff games but at Grimsley High School, there was an empty seat.
Quarterback Malik Stimpson's father, Antonio Stimpson, has never seen him play football because he was murdered when Malik was just 7-years-old.
His family says it was a case of mistaken identity and that the shooter meant to kill someone else.
Malik was too young to remember much of his father but he connects with him on the field.
"Its basically a tradition in my family," explained Malik Stimpson, sophomore, Grimsley High School.
Malik's father also played football at Grimsley but this family tradition has become therapy for Malik.
"Not having a father its kind of hard but hey, that's why I play football," explained Malik. "Football helped me get some of my pain out and anger because I didn't know why at the time but now I understand."
"He plays through his pain on the field," said Renae Marcus.
Marcus is Malik's mother and was Antonio's high school sweetheart. They were together for nine years and have three sons.
"He was a great father, he loved his children."
She now cheers on her son from the same stands she cheered for his father.
"We all miss his father and it kind of breaks my heart because there is nothing I can do," said Marcus.
"I just have to pray him through it, just pray him through it."
Malik has his own way to cope too -- he wears a t-shirt with his dad's picture under his jersey every time he plays.
"So I guess so I can have his spirit to be with me. Because he actually never saw me play football."
Malik added, "I feel very close to him. I feel like every time I score a touchdown I feel like he's with me or he's running with me."
"[Antonio's] son is on the same field we [was] on, but the thing about it, his son is a whole lot better than both of us ever was," said Sean Stimpson, Antonio's cousin.
"I know he'd be proud."
"It makes me feel like I've accomplished something but I have more to accomplish. Just to know if he was here, he would be proud of me," said Malik.
Malik takes honor classes. He also plays baseball -- just like his dad.
WFMY News 2