MERIDEN – Hundreds of friends, family, coaches and teammates gathered to celebrate the life of Jaylon-DeVine W. Nixon, or better known to his large and tight-knit family as ‘Jay-Jay.’
Nixon, 18, died Sunday due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident on his way home from work. Nixon was celebrated with a vigil on Thursday night out front of Maloney High School, the school he graduated from in 2019.
Nixon was remembered with speeches from his parents, siblings and several of his cousins.
Nixon was a standout diver and football player at Maloney. Spartan football coach Kevin Frederick, along with Meriden Co-Op head coach Ed Heath also said some heartfelt words about Nixon. Frederick said Nixon was the toughest kid he coached. Heath, a longtime coach in Meriden, said Nixon is the best male diver to come through Meriden.
Nixon only dove during the season and he qualified for the Class LL state meet each of his four years at Maloney.
Frederick said Nixon did so many positive things.
“It’s good for the rest of the community to hear that and take some things from that and apply those things to their every day lives," Frederick said. “I will never forget the way he treated others. He looked at everyone the same no matter what. His passion for anything he did. Anything he put his heart into, he was all in. It’s just a sad day for the community. It’s heartbreaking for everyone. He inspired people.”
Nixon held the 6-dive and 11-dive record for the Co-Op team during his tenure on the board in high school. He was an All-Record Journal and All-Conference linebacker in his tenure on the gridiron. Nixon went on to dive at Southern Connecticut State University and had a successful freshman career. He was studying to be a nurse.
Victor Marquez is one of Nixon’s many cousins. The two were both standout out football players for the Spartans and both classmates of the Class of 2019. Both went to Southern after graduation and roomed together. Marquez is playing football in college.
“Jaylon has been my best friend since the day I was born,” Marquez said. “We were together year by year and step by step. He’s always had my back. He wasn’t my cousin, he was really my brother. We have a big family and we all have each other’s back until the end.”
“It gives me the chills to see everyone out here tonight,” Marquez said. “He touched everyone’s heart. He had an impact on a lot of people. All of these people loved him. He love them back. He’s a very loving person. But when he got to the field, it’s a different story.”
Marquez said Nixon had a different switch on the field. He said there seldom was a day they weren’t together.
“Jaylon is the type of kid that will ride with you until the wheels fall off and when the wheels fall off he will get out and push you,” Marquez said.
Many stories on Thursday discussed Nixon’s genuine kindness, good nature and ability to being injury prone, including a major diving accident that happened this fall. Nixon’s mother, Teresa (Valentin) Cotto gave a chilling recollection of getting the call that her son was hurt and driving 45 minutes from East Hartford to New Haven.
“He made it through,” Cotto said. “He looked at me and said ‘mom, it’s OK. Things always happen to me, but I’m fine. I’m going to get this and I’m going to take care of everyone.’”
Cotto said the loss of her son is the biggest heartache she will ever endure.
“He was our sunshine,” Cotto said. “He was so passionate. He loved everyone. He would give anyone the shirt off of his back. He loved everybody. He was a special person. His body may be gone, but he’s here with us. He’s not gone. He's with us. Remember him always in your heart. Pray for him, even if you aren’t religious. Just say, Jay-Jay see you in heaven. Lift my son up and make sure he gets to heaven.”
“I would have never known how many hearts and minds my son touched if none of this happened,” she added, tearfully. “There was a reason, I’m not sure why. But I know he’s looking down at us. If you need a guardian angel, you got one. He’s right there. I’m going to share him with all of you. Whenever you need him to watch out, he’s there.”
Cotto said her son loved candy, especially cherry Jolly Rancher’s.
“He loved his family, so honor him,” Cotto said. “Love your family and respect your parents. Hold on to your friends and make memories. Have fun and take care of each other. If you see someone is having a hard time, reach out to them because Jay-Jay would want you to do that.”
Jaylon’s 16-year old brother Daejon carried his brother’s No. 7 Maloney football jersey into the vigil. He spoke about his brother at the podium.
“My brother taught me and everyone else to be strong,” Daejon Nixon said. “I’m not crying right now because, like I was telling everyone at the funeral, I can’t cry for someone who’s not dead. My brother is happy. He was always happy. He was the happiest person I know, besides me. I try to keep a smile no matter what.”
Jaylon's family has organized a gofundme page to give people the opportunity to honor his life by donating to support scholarships in the sports that he loved being a part of such as swimming and football, and also to provide support to his family. The link for that website is https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-honor-of-jaylondevine?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link-tip.