Dino Cannon's spirit overwhelmed the casket that held his body, pulled his friends and family and teammates together in tearful embraces and impassioned prayers.
When the altar call was made, hundreds gathered at the front of the Greater Vision Community Church. The silver box disappeared in their midst and the memory of Dino LaVella Cannon, the little brother who looked out for everyone he knew, was never more alive.
"Dino's spirit lives inside each and everyone of us from now until forever," said classmate Kevin Pyles. "Dino is now in a better place watching over us to protect us and guide us on the path to righteousness. He is all of our guardian angel."
About 1,000 friends and family attended Cannon's funeral Saturday to celebrate the short, but full life that served as an example of faith to many in attendance.
"I don't care what I was going through, Dino would never use it against me to throw in my face," said friend Ronald Lanier. "He showed me to Christ and that was the biggest blessing I ever received."
Cannon, 18, was shot outside a nightclub while vacationing in Florida with his family and later died at an Orlando hospital on June 15, less than two weeks after he graduated from Killeen High School.
"Today, we're celebrating the life of my nephew, Dino Cannon," said uncle Dwayne Dishmon. "Just three weeks ago, we were celebrating his graduation. But, I find peace in my heart knowing that, 'Precious in the site of God is the death of his saints.'"
Cannon's uncle and Magnolia First Baptist Church pastor David L. Norman Sr. delivered the eulogy, a selection from John 3 about salvation.
"Though we don't understand the mind of God, this is just one of those times where we have to really trust in the sovereignty of God because the Lord knows best," Norman said. "So, God, we thank you for the powerful testimony of Dino Cannon, we know he is with you. We know he has been born again."
Greater Vision Community Church pastor David G. Reynolds officiated the service, which included choir performances from the Greater Vision and Magnolia First Baptist Church choirs, a solo special by Letitia Moore and a duet by Moore and deacon Marvin Bell.
Cannon's sisters Daeja, DeJonae and DeVaunier also performed a praise dance with Traecia Nichols, Le'Nette Reese and Surena Ellis.
Desiree' Cannon, the oldest of Dino V. and Daphne Cannon's five children, gave a special expression.
"Dino and I always had a special bond I was his protector," Desiree' said. "As we became older, he became my protector, he became little, big brother."
In a club for the first time celebrating his belated 18th birthday, Dino was reportedly shot in a parking lot outside Club Limelite while protecting his sisters after leaving the club around 2:30 a.m. EST.
The suspect, who remains at large, and his friends were kicked out of the club by off-duty police officers, but waited in the parking lot where they later attacked Cannon.
"When this first happened, I had just vengeance in my heart, but vengeance belongs to the Lord," Dishmon said. "Dino impacted so many people. As a matter of fact, I was told Monday that when somebody heard about his death, they gave their life to Christ.
"If my nephew's death is the basis for bringing people to Christ, then we must give God the honor, give God the glory, give God the praise."
Cannon, a Texas scholar and two-year letterman on the Roos' football team, was described as being respectful, outgoing, obedient and spiritual by Killeen head football coach Sam Jones.
"This is how I will always remember Dino as a true Roo," Jones said. "On behalf of the Killeen High football team, coaches and myself, we'd like to thank the family for sharing Dino with us for the past four years.
"He showed us his love for Killeen High School, love for team, love for his family, love for his coaches and love for his friends."
Killeen football players wore their jerseys in support while Dino's No. 8 was pinned inside the casket lid.
Jones said the Roos football team will remember Cannon in some way in the fall and his jersey will most likely be taken out of circulation if it is not worn on an honorary, rotating basis next season. Cannon planned to attend Prairie View A&M in the fall, and had received a recruiting phone call from a college football coach just days before his death.
Speaking for the Killeen football team, Artrez Price quoted Matthew 20:16, "So the last shall be first and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."
"This (verse) epitomized and reflected the life of Dino Cannon both on and off the field," Price said.
"I've come to tell you not to fret, for although he was the first of many to leave, he will ultimately be the last to leave, as well, for he will forever be remembered in our hearts, minds and souls until the ends of our days."