EPHRAIM—The Snow College Badgers could not have honored a former football teammate any better than they did last Saturday when they won a 47-0 blowout against Arizona Western College at Badger Stadium.
The resounding victory came just one week after the team had dedicated its season to Nery Sanchez, a redshirt freshman in 2004 who would have returned to play for Snow this season had an auto accident last spring not taken his life.
On March 4, Sanchez, from Magna, was driving to Snow's campus from Salt Lake City when he lost control of his vehicle on I-15 near Nephi.
The car rolled and Sanchez was killed. Police believe he fell asleep at the wheel.
Upon hearing the news, Titan Trimble, Snow's head football coach, canceled team workouts the following day and instead called his team to a meeting with a campus grief-counselor, Sally Whiting.
"There are two ways you can deal with tragedy,' Whiting told them. "You can let it take you down, or you can let it take you up."
Giving them an idea for the latter, she said, "Take a quality you learned from (Nery) and pay it forward: exemplify it in your own life so that his life has meaning through yours."
Whiting said that as she asked the players to talk Sanchez's qualities, "they picked up on it. They made commitments to exemplify qualities Nery had."
The quality she says she heard most often was that Sanchez played hard, and that he cared about his "football family," a concept that Trimble had worked to instill in his players since becoming their head coach last December.
Trimble said Sanchez responded well to the team-family idea. At the time the accident, Sanchez was returning to campus to attend a scheduled weight-training workout.
Trimble said Whiting's pay-it-forward idea resonated with his players, even those who were less acquainted with Sanchez. "Some of the guys who didn't get a chance to know him were saddened because they didn't have that opportunity," he said.
But now even those who knew Sanchez less will have the chance, right alongside his friends on the team, to pay-it-forward for him this season.
At halftime during the Badgers' 9-7 win against Georgia Military Academy on Sept. 10, Snow President Michael T. Benson and Trimble retired Sanchez's number, 90, and presented the jersey to his parents.
"He was the epitome of this program," Trimble said at the time. "We miss him every day."
But it was the team that went on to epitomize Sanchez. After halftime, the Badgers scraped out a 9-7 win in a game that was the epitome of a defensive war against one of the best defensive teams in the country. They then went on to win against Western Arizona a week later, last Saturday, with a fiercely determined offense and a brick-wall defense.
Sanchez would have played on that defensive line.