The NFL‘s Houston Texans honored and remembered the victims of the Uvalde Elementary school shooting at Sunday’s opener versus divisional rival Indianapolis Colts.
The Texans hosted the Uvalde high school football team at the game. The team adorned “Uvalde Strong” decals on their helmets after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting there in May.
The team joined with grocery store chain H-E-B to pay for the team to travel the 280 miles from Uvalde. They also financed the team’s viewing the game from a suite.
Earlier this year, the team donated $400,000 to the Robb Elementary School memorial fund.
Senior linebacker Justyn Rendon said it was the first time most of his teammates had ever been to an NFL game and reflected on the experience.
“It means a lot to a lot of these guys just to get away from Uvalde in general and just enjoy being here,” he said. “A lot of these guys may never experience an NFL game like this. So it’s a real big thing.”
Uvalde coach Wade Miller said they the team continues to find different ways to commemorate the victims.
“As far as the memory of 21, it’s important to us,” he said. “We all either lost somebody or knew somebody (that did) and … we’re like the rest of the world, we just want to help in some way. And hopefully this helps.”
“We stand with Uvalde” flashed on the boards as the players were shown on the screens at the game.
Uvalde High School Players Talk About Experience at NFL Game
Linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill among other Houston Texans players visited Uvalde earlier this month. They surprised the team with new uniforms provided by Nike at a team dinner. Miller has been overwhelmed by the grace and care the organization has shown his team.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You live out in a small southwest Texas town, and to know people care about us and when these guys find out that those guys want to know what their score is, it means the world.”
Uvalde is located approximately 280 miles from Houston.
Before the game, Rendon was asked if he was a Texans fan. He paused and carefully considered before answering candidly.
“I’ll be totally honest, I’m 49ers fan,” he said. “But it’s just amazing and wonderful what the Texans have done for us and the whole city of Houston, too.”
Miller also added: “We have a lot of fans on our team of a bunch of different teams — but we’re all Texans fans now.”
Both Miller and Rendon talked about how sports help provide a meaningful distraction in times of tragedy. Rendon spoke to how his jersey No. 21 takes a deeper meaning, a badge of honor he wears. The No. 21 represents the 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting in May.
“It means a lot, especially to the city of Uvalde just being able to run out on Friday nights and represent the 21 lives that were lost on May 24,” he said. “I’m representing them on and off the field.”