COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) — University of Maryland’s student-athletes came together Monday to announce how they would honor the life of Terps football player Jordan McNair, who died this summer following a practice.
“Since Jordan’s passing, we have as a football program been grieving and mourning in our own way together,” interim head coach Matt Canada said. “Our football players have spent a lot of time trying to decide the best way to honor Jordan and his memory and they are going to tell you about it today and they are very proud to do that.”
McNair died on June 13, two weeks after collapsing following a preseason practice. His family announced he died of heatstroke.
Standing on the same turf where they practiced with McNair just months ago, two freshman football players spoke about how the team and university would honor McNair.
“Every play we make, every snap we take, will be done in Jordan’s honor,” freshman offensive lineman Ellis McKennie said.
The players will each wear a no. 79 sticker on their helmets every game, McKennie added.
A moment of silence will also be held at the Texas season opener and Temple game. A scholarship will also be created in McNair’s name for one student-athlete every year.
Offensive lineman Johnny Jordan said, “He was a gentle giant, and we as a team will continue to carry on his legacy for this season and far beyond.”
The Offensive Line room in the newly renovated Cole Field House will be named after McNair. No other student-athlete will wear the no. 79 through McNair’s graduation year and he’ll be honored along with his graduating class. His locker will be encased in glass and moved to the Cole Field House when the team moves to that facility.
“To the fans — thank you for your unwavering support — we’ve really enjoyed that. It is now more than ever that we need your support. We’ve been working hard all summer and all training camp to make you proud…” said another player.
The tribute comes at the height of turmoil within the football program as an investigation into the team’s culture and McNair’s death is well underway.
Monday’s announcement came 11 days after an explosive ESPN report on the abuse of players and the alleged lack of immediate medical attention when McNair collapsed from heat stroke during a May practice.
Off the field, the controversy has the Terp team divided.
Some players confirmed rumors that staff mistreated players while others defended head coach DJ Durkin.
“These accusations are false. I really hope that coach Durkin does come back and coach us, because he deserves to and he’s laid the foundation, he’s done all the hard work to get us to where we are, and we’re so close from succeeding,” punter Wade Leesare said.
Player opinion aside, during practice Monday, the lasting implications of McNair’s death were visible.
Feet from where they warm up ahead of the season, a cooling tent was waiting.
As the team prepares for game one without No. 79, his parents are preparing for their own face-off.
“Any coach promises parents that they will take care of your child. Anything but that was done,” Jordan McNair’s father, Martin, said.
The family’s lawyer said previously that they will file a lawsuit against the university, despite UMD’s public apology to the McNair family.