Coach, mentor says slain 15-year-old had a ‘big heart of a lion’

“A kid with a big heart. Heart of a lion. Why him,” questions Recreation League Coach Michael Myles.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 4:59 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Family, friends, coaches, and mentors to Zaire Person are all looking for answers after his death.

“A kid with a big heart. Heart of a lion. Why him,” questions Recreation League Coach Michael Myles.

Myles knew Pesrson would play football at the collegiate level. Now, those dreams are changed forever by the path of one bullet.

We sat with the coach and mentor to learn more about the aspiring football star.

Throughout our lifetime, some of us are lucky enough to have at least one mentor we know we can rely on. No matter the circumstances, they will be there in a time of need without a single question.

For 15-year-old Person, it’s Myles. One call forever changed his life.

“I was at work. His mother called me at least four times, and finally, I looked down at the phone, and she said, ‘Toonk has been shot. Call me Coach Mike’,” he said.

Without hesitation, the coach turned mentor raced to AU Medical to be with Person.

“Trying to just understand like a kid with a big heart of a lion. Why him? You know why him,” said Myles.

He wasn’t leaving until there were answers.

“It wasn’t true to me in my mind until I saw his mother. And I asked if was he okay. She didn’t know at the moment. And I said I’m gonna be right here until we find out what’s going on,” he said.

Those who know Person say he was good at track and basketball but his coach says his talent shined the brightest in football.

“Little man with a big heart that was a champion. Zaire was a champion,” said Myles.

Person played football under Myles for three seasons, and their relationship grew beyond the sidelines.

“We did outings ... fishing. They used to come over and play video games. We had pizza with several other Wolverine football players,” he said.

He never missed a chance to see “Toonk” play under the Friday night lights.

“Every time he had a game, or if it was basketball, or if it was football with Butler High School, I’ll be there,” he said.

Myles says his loss is felt for miles but his legacy won’t be forgotten.

“This was a great kid. This was a role model kid. This is a kid that other children used to look up to, and still will look up to because his legacy is still gonna go, it’s going to carry with us,” said Myles.

Starting with justice.

“I just want to make sure we can find justice for a second. Just continue to play football, and continue to do things that he loves. Continue to get the kids in the community to do things that they love,” he said.

Law enforcement has not arrested a suspect in connection to Person’s death. We reached out to see if they had any leads and to see if the community is in danger but they won’t comment since it’s an open investigation.