CORAL GABLES — Like most major-college football players, Corey Gaynor can take a laissez-faire approach to laundry day. Though its eight-figure apparel contract, Miami blankets its players in team-colored gear. Gaynor has enough t-shirts to let the dirty ones pile high.
One particular shirt he owns might one day become threadbare. It didn’t come from college.
It is black, and bears a tribute to Aaron Feis, who was among 17 shot and killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
Saturday, Gaynor reunited with others who wear similar shirts. Douglas coach Willis May, defensive coordinator Quentin Short and eight Eagles players watched practice among with dozens from other schools. Afterward the Parkland crew chatted with Gaynor, a sophomore who is backing up senior Tyler Gauthier at center.
Gaynor embraced Short, who was wearing a shirt with Feis’ name, the years he lived (1980-2018), “Faith, Family, Football,” and “Never Forget.” Douglas players wore shirts with an image of a football helmet with ’17’ on it.
The Parkland community still mourns, but Gaynor shared a few laughs with his former coaches and players hoping to follow in his footsteps.
Feis, a 37-year-old assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and security guard at the school, died while attempting to shield students from gunfire after former student Nikolas Cruz entered the school with an assault rifle. Feis was remembered as a hero by 1,000-plus who attended his funeral Feb. 22.
UM has not made Gaynor available for interviews this spring. He gave a brief statement to a UM spokesperson after practice, which was relayed to reporters.
“It means everything,” Gaynor said, when asked for his reaction to seeing his former coaches and fellow students. “It just shows how strong we are as a community. They’re very supportive. They’re doing a great job and I’m very proud that those men are my coaches.”
Miami coach Mark Richt said he didn’t know “for sure” the Douglas players and coaches would make it to campus Saturday. He wished he could have spoken with them at length.
“Through the media, I just want to tell that that we love them,” Richt said. “We’ll have something to honor their school, their fallen schoolmates and coach and teachers and all that in-season, for that (Sept. 2) game against LSU on national TV, we’ll have some kind of tribute there.”
Richt was asked for his reaction to the response Parkland students have shown since the shooting, keeping the issue of gun violence in the national discussion and organizing a rally — March for Our Lives — last Saturday that turned out an estimated 1.2 million people, making it one of the largest protests in U.S. history.
“Sometimes when change is needed, people have got to step up and stand up for what they believe,” Richt said. “Everybody has different opinions on what should or shouldn’t happen, but the beauty of this country is the ability to say what you believe and have faith and confidence that you’ll be heard. When you do it in numbers, it makes a bigger statement. I’m proud of them for doing that.”
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