In sports, and in life, there are moments that bring a rush of chills throughout your body. It’s an uncontrollable feeling and one that suddenly puts everything into perspective. The UAB Blazers football team has created another one of those instances.
For the second season in a row, in what now can be officially tabbed as an amazing and heartwarming tradition, the UAB football team will honor and memorialize children and families served by Children’s Harbor in Birmingham, Alabama. Every player will wear a different name of a patient from the children’s hospital on the back of his gray jersey during Saturday’s Homecoming game against North Texas.
This means so much more than the game.
The Blazers program adopted Children’s Harbor as one of their community charities in 2016 and there has been an unbreakable bond ever since. Players and coaches take regular trips to help encourage patients, and all 100 game jerseys will be presented to each child and their family a few weeks after the game.
“We talk a lot about playing for the name on the front of the jersey. This is our chance to play for the name on the back. Last year our players found out about each one of these children, who they are and what their story is,. They really developed a relationship with that family.” — UAB head coach Bill Clark
Almost every player will wear the name of a current patient, with redshirt senior quarterback A.J. Erdely being one incredible exception.
Erderly will be wearing a special jersey in memory of former patient Jackson Thomas, who his family refers to as Jack-Jack. He passed away at the age of five from Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata.
“We’re thankful for these players, these coaches, this athletic program and for being a light to so many and allowing our family and so many others to be a part of your special Homecoming game,” Jack-Jack’s mother, Tracey Thomas, said. “It will be a bright spot in our lives long after the lights go out that night.”
In 2017, the first game UAB wore the Children’s Harbor jerseys, the Blazers blocked a last-second field goal to beat Louisiana Tech. Perhaps it’s a sign of good things to come during this big Conference USA showdown this weekend.
No matter what, though, this day means so much more to the Birmingham community and so many families than any numbers on a scoreboard.