Wagner, 32, said he tries to care for his teammates just like she always cared for his family. He wants to be the “glue” bringing people together, just like she was the glue for them.
“That’s how you keep her; I am, in a way, her,” he said.
Succeeding at football is a way to honor Phenia’s memory, but also a painful reminder of everything she’s missed, Wagner added.
“When you get to the league (they ask), ‘How many parents do you have?’ I say, ‘One.’ ‘Well, where is the other one?’ And I have to explain that. If you have a good game, they ask you again,” he said.
The Athletic profile focused on Wagner’s relationship to his mother since he now plays in a stadium located right by Los Angeles’ Inglewood Park Cemetery, Phenia’s final resting place. Wagner joined the L.A. Rams this offseason after 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks.
Although it took until this season for Wagner to play for his former hometown team, the All-Pro linebacker has been giving back to the community throughout his entire career, The Athletic reported. He’s been donating “cleats, equipment and even meals” for kids in the impoverished L.A. suburb where he spent his teenage years and hosting free football camps.
“Piece by piece, act by act, Wagner built a bridge through his grief right back to Los Angeles,” the article said.
To learn more about Wagner’s efforts to honor his mother’s memory and stay connected to his hometown, read the full profile from The Athletic.