Sooners hold heavy hearts for Newtown victims

NORMAN, Okla. — Last Friday's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., undoubtedly sent shockwaves around the entire country.

That includes the American sports world.

While flags have flown half mast, moments of silence have been utilized nationwide.

Most notably, the New England Patriots silenced their "End Zone Militia" and lit 26 flares during a moving moment of silence before Sunday Night Football.

One of the 26 victims—that included 20 6- and 7-year-old children as well as six adults—idolized New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

His name was Jack Pinto, one of eight boys tragically shot that morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the town roughly 60 miles northeast of The City That Never Sleeps.

So, Cruz, touched deeply by the sadness of the event as well as the kid's appreciation for him, wrote ‘JACK PINTO "MY HERO"' on his left cleat and ‘R.I.P. JACK PINTO' on the other for his game the other night against the Atlanta Falcons.

Pinto was buried in a Cruz jersey a day later during his Monday funeral.

The Giants star then made a special visit to Newtown to meet with his family the following day.

"When you visit a family that's going through so much and facing so much turmoil in their lives; you meet the family, you see people and the things they're going through, it helps you look at life through a different lens, like I said," Cruz told reporters. "It really changes your view and the way you used to look at things. It changes your view of it."

Sooner wide receiver Kenny Stills has followed suit, not in making a visit there, but in making a thoughtful contribution.

OU's leading receiver, who finished the regular season with 892 yards and 11 touchdowns on 75 catches, originally wanted to sign his gloves and sleeve from the West Virginia game—remember he caught the game-winning 5-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in that contest—and personally deliver them to one of the families involved in the tragedy.

He'll settle for the next best thing.

"Yeah, I talked to compliance yesterday," Stills said. "We're going to try and auction off the gloves. I saved my gloves and the sleeve that I was wearing. I'm trying to auction off those on the Web site, I think, SoonerSports[.com] Web site and give the proceeds to one of the families that was involved in the tragedy."

As with Cruz, it's not about getting any publicity.

It's not to benefit him in any way.

It's to send any kind of sympathy and condolences he can to the town some 1,500 miles away from the southern plains of Oklahoma.

"It's been really heavy on my heart," Stills said. "Just a really tough situation to go through and I just couldn't imagine going through something like that, you know, having a little brother, having nephews and nieces that I care about a lot. Like I said, it's weighing pretty hard on me, so I wanted to do something I could to help and to represent our university and the football team."

The rest of the Sooner team has been overcome with emotions and outpouring support for the victims as well.

"It's tragic," said OU cornerback Demontre Hurst. "You don't want to see things like that happen, especially little kids that got big dreams like us, play football and do anything big in life. So, it's a tragedy. You know, it shook up the whole world. I know it did. Just to see those kids, man it's a tragedy. You really can't say too much, but you know just pray for those families and pray for those kids and hopefully they're in a better place."

Said other cornerback Aaron Colvin: "Man, it hurt me honestly. I was actually about to go take a final and I was trying to focus on the test, but for some reason I kept thinking about that. So, it's sad to see something like that can happen, and it's crazy that people actually do that. But it hurt me personally. I know it hurt the country."

Strong safety Javon Harris, who has kids himself, was hit harder than most based on the simple fact he could relate more to the parents who lost his or her dear loved ones.

It didn't take much time for him to think about the prospect of that.

"I mean, you know, the first thing I did was [say], ‘I couldn't believe this,'" Harris said. "At the same time, you know, I just prayed about it, just sending my prayers that way. For me, it could have been my son in that facility or something like that. I mean it's a sad thing, but at the same time my prayers go out to all the families and everyone that was involved."

Punter Tress Way, widely known as one of the most devout Christians on the team, has been orchestrating a program called Christmas 127 with his girlfriend and OU softball player Brianna Turang.

With that, they have been able to provide 50 underprivileged kids, many of whom are orphans, a Christmas that would otherwise not have had that opportunity.

In midst of the tragic events coupled with their generosity for these local youngsters, Way speaks of a lady who praised them for their actions.

"Whenever we were delivering those gifts, there was a woman that came up to me and she was just in tears and she said, ‘In a time where the world is always getting worse, it's incredible to see athletes,'" Way said. "And we took 15 guys from the team down with us to deliver the gifts, and she said, ‘It's incredible to see people who are willing to still try and make it right in this dark time.'"

Way even went to an elementary school Monday, the first official school day after last week's events, where it perhaps even hit more at home.

"I went up to an elementary school just to help deliver some presents to some kids, and you could just tell the attitude," Way said. "Everybody was nervous to go to school, and so it's just, man…you just kinda gotta reflect on it, and it's just so awful that something like that happens and it's just we gotta try and make this world better while we still can."

There's no doubt the horrible shooting in Newtown has had a massive impact on the Sooners, even if it is all the way across the country.

Players admit they're appreciating life more, a life that has been so unfortunately taken away from many precious young children.

"I was just thinking about it, it kinda takes your problems that you've had, as minuscule as they are, it puts them into back perspective," said Sooner center Gabe Ikard. "You kinda realize that maybe you don't need to complain so much about the things you feel that are working against you in life. So yeah, it just puts life in perspective and how fragile it actually is and how it can be gone in an instant. So, it just gets you thinking."

Similar sentiments came from Colvin.

"Definitely, don't take anything for granted," Colvin said. "And, you know, sometimes I feel like I have it bad in some situations, but when you think about it and the situations those kids went through and those families, none of us really have it that bad."

For a country that prides itself on freedom and equality but many times seems to take it all for granted, these are encouraging words to hear and actions to see in a troubling time.

The Sooners have certainly took the hit like the rest of the country and in the process sent their support out east.

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