HOUSTON – It was an extremely emotional day for the Uvalde High School football team at NRG Stadium.
The Coyotes, visited previously by the Texans at their team dinner and home football game and provided new uniforms by the Texans and Nike, were the guests of the AFC South football team and H-E-B in suites with transportation provided by the team and supermarket giant.
Uvalde coach Herb Miller and player Justyn Rendon said it was an incredible experience and they have all become converted Texans fans through their interactions with coach Lovie Smith, linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu-Grugier Hill, and Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair and foundation vice president Hannah McNair.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Miller said. “Just to see my guys’ faces, a lot of these guys have never been to an NFL game. To see their faces walking in and some of the people they’ve met, no words. It’s important to us. We all lost somebody or know somebody who lost somebody. We’re like the rest of the world.
Uvalde HS football coach Herb Miller and player Justyn Rendon, who said it is his honor to wear No— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 11, 2022
21 on the field to represent the 21 who lost their lives in tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary @uvaldehs #uvaldestrong @texanscare Uvalde team guests of @HoustonTexans @HEB https://t.co/qcaDlR8fU1 pic.twitter.com/8kBdlfxoL6
“We just want to help in some way. It’s unbelievable. You live in a small Southwest Texas town, to know that people care about us and want to know about our game, it’s unbelievable. The city of Houston with the Astros and Texans organizations have been unbelievable to us. It means the world.”
Rendon wears No. 21 and said it’s an honor to wear the number to recognize the 21 people --19 students and two teachers -- during the tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary this year.
“It means a lot to a lot of these guys just to get away from Uvalde in general,” Rendon said. “Just the feeling and joy of being here, a lot of these guys have never been to an NFL game like this. Honestly, it’s just unbelievable what the city of Houston has done for us. We couldn’t be more grateful.”
A large contingent of Texans staff, players, and personnel visited the Uvalde High School, football team.
The Texans watched the Coyotes deliver a dramatic victory one day after the NFL team surprised the coaches and players with a team dinner.
The Texans previously donated $400,000 to the Robb Elementary Memorial Fund.
For a community that’s still reeling from a devastating tragedy -- a massive school shooting that claimed 19 students and two teachers’ lives at Robb Elementary School -- being visited by Smith, Kirksey, Grugier-Hill, director of sports medicine and head athletic trainer Roland Ramirez, a Uvalde native, Cal McNair, and Hannah McNair meant a lot to Uvalde residents.
Texans are hosting Uvalde High School football team @uvaldehs Coyotes today at NRG Stadium for season opener against the Colts. Coach Herb Miller and Justyn Rendon, who wears No. 21 to honor the 21 lives lost in the tragedy at Robb Elementary #uvaldestrong @texanscare pic.twitter.com/IS72blAhSR— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 11, 2022
The feeling was mutual.
“A lot of emotion,” Smith said. “We all know what that community has gone through. We came down here to give them a hug. Football, we understand that’s not the real world, but sometimes for a certain group of people, when you have an attachment, we, our organization, specifically me as a head football coach, go down and get a chance to talk to theirs.
“Our players talking to their players, to just get an outlet for a night. Football sometimes can bring a smile to people’s faces, but we know it’s a lot bigger than that. The healing process takes a while, but I know it touched us and it doesn’t hurt to win a game in that fashion, the way that they did. We’re excited about them coming up this week and any type of support our organization can give, we’ll do.”
Kirksey led the effort for players donating over $200,000, which was matched by Cal and Hannah McNair.
“I can’t imagine taking my child to school where they’re supposed to be safe - that’s the safest place they could be - and you get a phone call from a principal or police officer saying there’s a shooting at the school,” Kirksey said in the wake of the shooting. “My heart goes out to all the parents and those families. No words can help the parents.
“They don’t have their children anymore. I’m a parent myself and I can’t imagine going through that and having to live with that the rest of my life, so I was definitely hurt by hearing that, and it’s in Texas, and that’s right down the road.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com