UValde, Texas – Weeks after the tragedy in Uvalde, head football coach Wade Miller and the football team at Rob Elementary searched for ways to honor the victims.
But the first step was to simply come together as a group and be able to spend time with each other in the wake of the shoot.
,The first day we were able to come back on campus, we all just sat down and as coaches we told them that if they needed anything, we were here for them,” Miller said. “We weren’t going to bring it up, but if they wanted to, they could talk about it privately in a group.”
Coaching staff expected players to attend early summer workouts, but if they couldn’t for personal and family reasons, Miller understood the circumstances. But the summer proved to be a bonding experience for the team.
“They all showed up. It’s just, I don’t know, refreshing to see them here in this environment,” Miller said.
“It has bought us closer to what we’ve done at the university in the last two years,” said senior defensive back Frank Salazar. “We’re really close compared to the other teams.”
It was during the summer workout that Miller, his staff and his senior leaders began discussing ways to carry forward the memories of victims on the field this season. Miller was asked about his retirement at No. 21, but wanted to take input from his players.
“I said, ‘What do you all want to do?’ And they were like, ‘Well, if you retire something, you forget about it,’ Miller said. “We want people to remember and not forget. I said maybe we can do it.” Give it to a senior every year and after that they all joined it.
Linebacker Justin Rendon Uvalde will be the first in a long line of seniors to wear the No. 21 for the Coyotes. Rendon’s coaches and senior teammates voted him to wear the jersey this season.
,It was a huge blow, but I was also really blessed to be able to represent the lives lost in my community and Rob Elementary,” said Randon.
The honor embodies the values of the team and the agile community. Miller and other senior captains said there is no one better than Rendon to represent the program and Uvalde.
“He just represents the city of Uvalde. He’s hardworking, loves his community and wants to do things the right way. He’s a ‘T’ right there for Justin,” Miller said.
“We voted for him because Justin is always here,” Salazar said. “He’s encouraged me to be out there and be assertive at the same time. I look up to him, too.”
Rendon and the Coyotes will be taking the field with a heavy heart this season, but understand that football is something that can help bring the community together on Friday nights.
“It means a lot, especially the first game for everyone,” said senior linebacker and quarterback Chris Rodriguez. ,The community messed with whatever happened and hopefully it will bring everyone back together. It feels good to be back on the field with all my friends.”
“We want to be a shining light. There is a lot of pressure on young kids, but we want to do as well as we can on the field, in the community, and in the classroom,” Miller said.
And for Rendon, an opportunity during his senior season to carry forward memories of a life that was lost too soon.
“We’re a real small community, but we’re all coming together on Friday nights,” Rendon said. “It would be really emotional to wear that jersey and run on the field with it.”
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