The following is a story about a group of Michigan fans honoring a lost friend. To save from revealing full names, we’ve used their Twitter screen names.?
This story is dedicated to the life of Brian Otuonye.
Through social media and sport, a group of people became a big family. A group of passionate fans whose residency covers the map from Ann Arbor, Mich. to SEC country.
The two things they have in common?
Their love for Michigan football and their friend, Brian Otuonye.
“The group all started on Twitter,” @BradUM2421 said. “People?think it?s crazy that we all met on Twitter, and that we would invite each other to each other?s houses without ever meeting … but I tell everyone, I talk to them more than my real family.”
Otuonye was a big part of this group. Not just in stature, but in his kindness, his heart, and his shared passion for the Wolverines.
“He made everyone feel welcome,” @Blue_Bros_Craig said. “Not just the Michigan family … everyone.”
Otuonye was a 33-year-old with two masters degrees. He was born in Hancock, Mich., moved to Cookville, Tenn. and ended up in Atlanta.
His passion for Michigan football was only outweighed by his passion for family and friends.
“He was the kind of person this world needs right now. Genuine. Empathetic. Loving. Integrity,” @TabsGoBlue said. “He walked in the light that he radiated, even to people that only knew him through Twitter. He was truly an amazing and good person. Always.”
On Aug. 4, Otuonye suddenly passed away. He is survived by his parents, two siblings, grandparents, and numerous aunts and uncles.
And, of course, his Michigan family, as he called it.
In the moments following his demise, that same group of Wolverines fans he called family started to remember him in a way the world could see … through a Twitter challenge that went viral.
While living in Memphis, Tenn., @TheRealSimmDogg met Otuonye. Their friendship started because they had the same name and fandom, he was “The other Brian from Memphis,” where Otounye lived at the time they met.
“The other Brian” had an idea to honor Otuonye’s legacy through social media. Soon enough, it became a trending topic on Twitter. He started a challenge to honor Otuonye’s life.
What came next was what made me write this story.
“I logged on twitter to catch the news and got the word from @TabsGoBlue and @mkgoblue, two of his favorite people. I was speechless,” he said. “I got to the gym and was doing a little workout and wanted to do something to honor this young man.”
As he sat on the weight bench, thinking of how to give Otuonye a proper and appropriate memoriam … it hit him.
“I was in the perfect spot to honor the legacy he left with everybody that knew over the years,” he said. “It combined the two things he loved: Fitness and Michigan football.
“I figured, hey, if we could do a mini workout and yell ‘go blue!’ in his honor, it would leave a big smile on his face as he watches from up above.”
And that’s when the #SirBooGoBlueChallenge was born.
Named after Otuonye’s Twitter name, where this whole group met, the challenge was meant to honor his legacy.
It was simlple: Do 10 push-ups to honor his love for fitness, then scream ‘Go Blue!’ to celebrate his love for the Wolverines.
It started with this.
— Simmdogg ???? (@therealsimmdogg) August 8, 2018
What followed was over 50 videos. The videos came from all over. People from the group, to people who only knew Otuonye from Twitter, and some who didn’t know him at all.
Soon enough, everyone knew Brian Otuonye. They found out about his loving heart through shared stories, long letters on social media, and the challenge.
The videos started to evolve into larger fitness challenges.
— Michele ?? (@bakingmom14) August 11, 2018
At that point, his legacy wasn’t just known, it was honored. Over and over again, he was honored.
When I decided to tell this story, I didn’t know how deep it would end up being. I didn’t know that I’d be typing this wishing I had a moment to meet him, to hear his passion, and to be able to share a “Brian story,” as his friends call them.
The stories are endless. From Nate Lewis, to Kirbs, and all those mentioned above, his impact in 33 years was some couldn’t reach in a lifetime.
A story of a man that loved his family and his Wolverines, Brian Otuonye’s memory, though I never knew him, will always hold a place in my heart.
It’s why we do this. As a writer, he’s the fan we write for, the person we want to meet through this job, and now a soul we won’t forget.
The #SirBooGoBlueChallenge won’t stop anytime soon. That same group will honor him after every game by doing as many push ups as the difference in points of each Michigan football game. They encourage everyone to get involved to honor him.
Otuonye had a social media post in 2017 that perfectly exemplified his passion for life.
“Doors open, doors close. People come to the party, then leave the party,” he wrote. “Everything happens for a reason, and in this funny thing called life, I take nothing for granted … Life is precious and beautiful, let us never forget it.”
Don’t worry, Brian, we’ll never forget it.