Houston Texans honor Uvalde elementary school shooting victims at season opener
The Houston Texans used their opening Sunday against Indianapolis to honor and commemorate the victims of the Uvalde elementary school shooting.
The Texans hosted the Uvalde High School Football team and wore “Uvalde Strong” decals on their helmets after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting there in May.
The team partnered with supermarket chain HEB to pay for the team to travel the 280 miles from Uvalde and watch the game from a suite. It is part of the team’s continued support to the community after donating $400,000 to the Robb Elementary School memorial fund shortly after the shooting.
Senior linebacker Justyn Rendon said it was the first time most of his teammates had ever attended an NFL game.
“It means a lot to a lot of these guys to just be away from Uvalde in general and just enjoy being here,” he said. “A lot of these guys may never see an NFL game like this. So it’s a really big thing.”
Uvalde coach Wade Miller said they will do everything they can to continue to honor those who lost their lives in the shooting.
“As for the memory of 21, it’s important to us,” he said. “We’ve all lost someone or knew someone (who did) and… we’re just like the rest of the world, we just want to help in some way. And hopefully this will help.”
A video identifying the team was shown on the video board in the stadium during a time-out in the first quarter of Sunday. Uvalde players cheered as they were shown on the screens before a message that read: “We stand with Uvalde” flashed on the boards.
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A contingent of the Texans, including linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill, visited Uvalde earlier this month and surprised the team with new uniforms supplied by Nike at a team dinner.
They were both thrilled to have the team at Sunday’s opener.
“Whenever things like that happen, news comes in, people come in, and they’re with them for a while,” Grugier-Hill said. “But ultimately the reality is that the people are leaving and they are still dealing with the reality of what happened. So to just be with them for a bit and just bring some joy to them and get them out of here is great (and) I’m glad they’re here today.”
Kirksey said he bonded with some of the players and enjoyed getting to know them before their visit to Houston.
“It was good that they came to Houston to see us play,” he said. “So it was great to have them in the stands.”
Miller is overwhelmed by the support the Texans have given his team.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “You live in a small town in Southwest Texas, and to know that people care about us and when these guys find out those guys want to know what their score is, it means the world.”
Rendon was asked before the game if he was a Texas fan. He paused and looked sheepish before answering.
“I’ll be very honest, I’m a fan of the 49ers,” he said. “But it’s just amazing and amazing what the Texans have done for us and also for the entire city of Houston.”
Miller added: “We have a lot of fans on our team from a lot of different teams – but we’re all Texas fans now.”
Both Miller and Rendon talked about how sports have helped the city find distraction and try to heal in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy. Rendon is particularly proud of wearing the number 21 on his jersey to commemorate the victims every time he takes to the field.
“It means a lot, especially to the town of Uvalde which is emptied on Friday night and represents the 21 lives lost on May 24,” he said. “I represent them on and off the field.”