‘He loved others more than he loved himself’: How Zach Doran’s legacy continues to change lives

Fall Sports, Football

Trey Hunter

March 26, 2024
Mustang High School student and football player Zach Doran passed away on March 13. His celebration of life service was held three days later at Together We Church in Yukon. (Photo by Ron Lane / Lane Images)

Dozens gathered around Zach Doran’s casket, which was draped with both an American flag and a Mustang Bronco banner side-by-side.

People of all ages put their arms around each other’s shoulders as Senior Pastor Brian Mills stood on the stage inside a dimly lit auditorium at Together We Church in Yukon. He offered an invitation – or altar call – to close the fallen Mustang High School student’s celebration of life service.

At first, Mills asked those who answered to raise their hands and be acknowledged while others bowed. Moments later he asked them to stand and approach Zach’s casket and join together so the Doran family could see how many lives their son and brother had changed.

“I just can’t help but think that Zach was rejoicing during that moment,” said Jason Doran, Zach’s father. “That’s what he would want. He loved others more than he loved himself, so I think if he knew it would bring just one person to Christ, he would do it again.”

Zach Doran passed away on March 13 after suffering sudden cardiac arrest while practicing mixed martial arts at a gymnasium in Edmond on March 3. Over 1,000 people filled the auditorium for his celebration of life service on March 16 and over 2,000 watched online.

“He changed people,” Jason said.

“I’ve been coaching for over 25 years, and he impacted more people than me in his 18 years. I am so proud of who he was and what he did. I feel honored to be his dad.”

Last fall, the Mustang Bronco football team was trying to hold the Arkansas Har-Ber Wildcats out of the end zone in the final minutes of the team’s third game.

After a few plays, Zach – a team captain – hit the turf with a neck injury that would eventually end his season and high school career. But when Jason and head coach Lee Blankenship arrived to assess the damage, Zach wasn’t worried about himself.

“We’re going to lay here as long as we can,” Zach told his coaches. “My teammates need an extra rest right now.”

Zach was described by friends, family members, and others as selfless, a leader, and a true follower of Christ.

Jeremy Tims, Area Director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, spoke about the Bible verse John 3:30 and making God greater while making yourself less during Zach’s celebration of life service.

“We all know Zach understood that concept, because he put others first,” Tims said. “He had no problem putting Christ first and other people’s relationships and friendships before himself.

“The life that he lived, the example he set, and the influence that he had over our lives is going to allow us to be in a position to do greater things.”

Zach started attending FCA camps from the age of 2, being pushed along in a stroller at the FCA Family Camp. Soon later, he started going to Junior Sooner Camp and Camp Wow. And last summer he took part in Leadership Camp at Lake Texoma.

After growing up going to First Baptist Church of Mustang, Zach and his family started attending Together We Church. He was a big part of both congregation’s youth groups, went on mission trips, and even mentioned to Jason two months ago that he wanted to go into youth ministry.

“He had a servant’s heart,” Jason said. “He always wanted to help people. At first, he wanted to go into the military, then he wanted to be a police officer. There were so many things he wanted to do, but no matter what it was, it involved helping people.”

Tims provided an apt description of the impact Zach will continue to have by quoting former U.S. Representative and Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts.

“You can take an apple, cut it down the middle, and count the number of seeds in that apple,” Tims said as he quoted Watts from an FCA luncheon. “But there is no way to count every apple that will come from every seed.”


Currently, there is no law that states gymnasiums must have automatic external defibrillators. The Doran family aims to change that.

Jason says his mission is to get a law passed mandating AEDs in every gym in Oklahoma. There was not a device at the Edmond facility where Zach collapsed.

“People are going there to better themselves and push themselves and there is more likely of a chance something happens with the heart,” Jason said. “So why not have the best equipment to save a life?”

The Dorans have already helped set up fundraisers to help pay for AEDs to be donated to local gyms, including the Zach Doran Memorial Open Mat held by the Christian Karate Academy and Edmond Masonic Lodge No. 37.

A similar event will be held by American Elite MMA on March 29 at the same location where Zach trained.

“Here’s the thing. It’s all good until it happens to someone they know. What if that was your relative that went down? You would want an AED there.

“You have to be proactive.”


The number seven represents completeness in the Bible. Zach wore No. 7 last fall.

He was also an organ donor – donating seven organs. His legacy continues.

“This happened for a reason,” Jason said. “And we want this to make people run to God, not away from God. He said Zach was done working here and was ready for him to come home.

“Knowing how bold, courageous, and unwavering he was in his love for Christ and for other people. That helped us to trust God’s plan.”

Zach has already helped guide numerous lives to Christ and like the apple seed, who knows how many others he will have changed over the years. Seven lives will definitely be saved. Eventually others through legislation.

“We miss him because he made such an impact on us,” Jason said. “I’m proud of my son and the legacy he left behind. We should all want to be like Zach.”

Published by trey hunter

Trey Hunter is the owner and publisher of the Mustang Sports Review. He graduated from Mustang High School in 2006 before graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma with a journalism degree in 2011. He has covered Mustang sports for multiple publications as well as high school sports and professional basketball for other outlets. Contact Trey for story ideas or reach out with information. PHONE: (405) 659-9898 EMAIL: TreyHunter1987@gmail.com

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