Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football honors Boston Marathon victims at annual spring game

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Together, they ran through McGuirk Stadium’s south entrance, turned down the south end zone, then up field down the far sideline. They turned the corner down the north end zone, then back down the other sideline, where two lines of Massachusetts football players, cheerleaders, alumni and supporters awaited them.

Together, they each had one goal in mind: to finish what they started.

And on Saturday, they were given that opportunity. Six runners – each of whom were unable to finish last Monday’s Boston Marathon as a result of the explosion of two bombs near the finish line – ran a lap around McGuirk Stadium at halftime of the UMass football team’s spring game and crossed a makeshift finish line at the 50-yard line. They ran through two pieces of blue and yellow ribbon, held by two UMass football players, with wide smiles across their faces.

It wasn’t Boylston Street in Boston, but for now it was more than good enough.

Honoring a fallen friend

For 30-year-old Milton resident Gary Menin, Saturday’s lap around McGuirk Stadium meant more than just finishing what he started last Monday – it also meant honoring a lost friend.

From 2008 to 2010, Menin, a 2004 UMass graduate, was roommates with Sean Collier, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was shot and killed late Thursday night allegedly by suspected Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

At first, Menin didn’t know that his friend was the one who was slain. On Friday morning,

he was talking to one of his friends who said she went to high school with Collier.

“And I said, ‘Oh, I feel so sorry for you,’” Menin said.

But then Menin checked the Internet to see what the fallen officer’s name was.

“I just fell,” Menin said. “I was floored. I broke down. That was the moment when everything got extremely real to me.”

The two had fallen out of touch over the years, Menin said, but it didn’t take away the memories.

For Menin, he never knew Collier as a police officer. He knew him as a friend, someone he would hang out with in the backyard of their residence on Curtis Street in Somerville or someone who he would play Frisbee with in a park near Tufts University.

“He’s a real person and now a lot of people aren’t going to get to know him,” Menin said. “I mean, they’ll read about him, but you don’t get to hear his voice or hang out with him or play ‘Rock Band’ with him.”

Saturday’s run was only one step towards recovery, but it helped.

“It definitely meant a lot to come to UMass and do this,” Menin said. “It’s nice to have everyone here … everyone’s been so great in Boston, but all of Massachusetts and the world has been awesome and hopefully we can keep going with it.”

Players pay tribute to victims

Randall Jette was speechless when he first heard the news.

The UMass freshman cornerback had just learned from coach Charley Molnar that he would be wearing a nameplate that read “Sean Collier” on the back of his jersey for Saturday’s spring game, and he couldn’t describe the feeling.

“I couldn’t talk,” Jette said. “I was shocked.”

In addition to Jette, four other players wore special jerseys on Saturday to honor victims of last week’s events in Boston. Stanley Andre wore “Martin Richard” on his nameplate, Brandon Howard wore “Lu Lingzi,” Klysmann Afonso wore “Krystle Campbell” and Rob Blanchflower wore “#BostonStrong.”

“I was just honored,” Jette said. “I’m speechless. I’m doing the little thing. Boston police, Watertown police, they all did the job.”

Blanchflower, a Leominster native, grew up going to the Boston Marathon many times and watching his family members run it. He said it was “an absolute honor” to pay tribute to the victims with his jersey.

“I think it was great what we did today and letting these runners finish and let them get back on top,” Blanchflower said. “I think it’s a really big moment for them to come out here and take the weight off their shoulders and let the world know that we’re not scared, we’re back on top and we’re not going to back down from anyone.”

For Molnar, Saturday’s tributes “started off with just a small thought” early in the week when he wanted to just honor those who had lost their lives and those who had trained for the marathon but couldn’t finish.

He said “it was everything I thought it would be.”

“As those runners came around that final turn and ran through that tunnel, the outpouring of emotion from not only the runners but our football team, the alumni and the fans that came down, I could hear the people cheering in the stands,” Molnar said. “It was really, really a tug at my heart.”

It’s even inspired Molnar, who is already an avid runner, to train for next year’s Boston Marathon.

“After the events on Monday, I was absolutely determined that I want to run in Boston in 2014,” he said.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.


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