When I was a kid playing sports, my father told me that it was important to play through the pain. When Wyoming faces Texas today, that phrase will have a new and poignant meaning.
Early Monday morning, Wyoming freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse was killed in a single car accident. The driver fell asleep while heading back from Colorado, and Narcisse was thrown from the vehicle.
Less than a week later, the team in its unimaginable grief must head to Austin, Texas to play a football game. With heavy hearts they will play a game that in the grand scheme of things means nothing compared to what they have had to endure this week.
They will play through the pain.
Back in 2001 Texas went through something similar when defensive end Cole Pittman was killed in a car accident. That tragedy still weighs heavy with Texas coach Mack Brown.
When you are young, you are indestructible. You have dreams and goals, and there is nothing that you could ever imagine that could stop you. You live a fearless life, because you truly believe that you are untouchable.
When these young men step onto the field on Saturday, that aura of invincibility will have been shed away with their innocence lost, and they will be forced to deal with the sad reality that their teammate and brother in football is gone.
Just when it seems like the darkest of times when Royal Memorial Stadium goes quiet for a moment of silence, a small glimmer of hope will arise. That’s the power of the game.
For 60 minutes both teams will play their hearts out in the best tribute possible. They will play with passion and leave it all on the field, and for a brief time the world won’t seem so unfair and the pain will ache a little less.
Texas will probably win a lopsided game but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the game itself will help start the healing. The game will bring these young men together at a time when solitude is the greatest enemy.
Wyoming will have to deal with this all season. Each game a different player will wear Narcisse’s number without a name on the back. Each game every team member will carry the memory of Ruben Narcisse with them into every huddle, tackle, and touchdown.
This hurt will stay will these young men for a lifetime, but they know that in life, as in football, sometimes you have to play through the pain.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ruben Narcisse’s family, friends, and the entire University of Wyoming.