On a night when Lake Brantley’s senior class of student athletes was recognized before the start of Friday’s district football game, a former Patriot returned home to take part in a tribute of his own.

Patrick DiMarco, who played multiple positions on both sides of the ball for the Patriots during their run to the state finals in 2006, had his No. 42 jersey retired at midfield during halftime of Lake Brantley’s 19-6 win over Port Orange Spruce Creek.

After spending four productive seasons as a fullback at South Carolina under former University of Florida and NFL head coach Steve Spurrier, DiMarco caught on this fall with the Atlanta Falcons after appearing in five games last season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

For a current generation of student athletes at Lake Brantley the halftime ceremony served as proof that hard work can overcome any perceived shortcomings in talent.

“I’ve never been the most talented person in the world, but I worked hard enough to get to where I’m at,” DiMarco said afterwards.

On Friday he shared hugs and stories with every individual that approached. There was family, friends and former high school teammates on hand to reconnect with a hometown kid who remains proud of his roots.

DiMarco, the nephew of pro golfer Chris DiMarco, took a moment during the ceremony to express his appreciation for the support he’s received over the years before waving to the home crowd and posing for pictures.

“All my coaches and all my friends from the third grade on up, I still talk to them just about every day,” DiMarco said. “Being out here and growing up on this field means a lot. The whole community has been such a huge impact on me.”

Those connections have helped DiMarco maintain his focus while being separated from family and friends since moving on to South Carolina in 2007.

“You look at all the accolades that he’s had, not just on the field but off the field and in the classroom,” Lake Brantley coach George Clayton said. ”Pat’s just a Grade-A person, and it’s paying off for him right now because he’s in the NFL.”

The Falcons (1-4) host Tampa Bay on Sunday at 1 p.m. DiMarco has appeared in three games this season and has one catch for 12 yards.

“It’s a dream. It’s every kid’s dream to play in the NFL,” DiMarco said. “It’s definitely been a long stretch, but thanks goes out to all the people around me because I couldn’t have been able to do it without everybody else. It was a group effort with a lot of support from other people.”