By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There was a sense of loss as Odell Beckham Jr. and Weston Richburg took the field for the start of the New York Giants’ second week of training camp.
It had nothing to do with football for the all-everything wide receiver and the much-less known starting center.
The sadness revolved around the life of 9-year-old Jayro Ponce of Follett, Texas, and his death on Monday following a battle with rare form of cancer.
Richburg of Bushland, Texas, met Ponce in a hospital in the offseason. Beckham, who was Ponce’s favorite player, met the young man a couple of days before the Giants reported to training camp on Thursday.
Ponce made an impression on both.
Richburg remembers walking into the room on Apr. 8 in the Harrington Cancer Center, meeting the child and recalling his big smile.
“I probably could have handled it better,” the 26-year–old Richburg said. “But that situation, having somebody in that situation wanting to have something to do with you is kind of life-changing. You don’t experience that every day. It really had a big impact on me and showed me that people are watching me and I have an impact whether I like it or not.”
Beckham was not available to be interviewed Tuesday after practice, but it was clear the death of Ponce affected him.
“I don’t even kno where to start,” he wrote on his Instagram account. “It’s hard to even fully understand these situations. Crushed, hurt, upset this one cut deep. I had the pleasure of meeting this young man. Truly an amazing person filled wit beautiful energy. Against alll odds u fought lil bro, everyday,day after day. For yourself and for your family.”
Beckham wrote that meeting Ponce taught him more than he could have imagined.
“To the family I thank u for allowing me to visit wit yu guys and be there to support,” Beckham wrote. “I’ll be here for life for u guys. I kno Jayro is in a better place and that God now has him. Rest in Peace Jayro.”
Talking about Ponce last week, Richburg seemed to know that his chances of surviving were not good.
“Obviously you hope and pray that you see some good come out of it and there is a turn for the better, but that’s not the way it ended up,” Richburg said.
His hope is that the family can find some peace.
“As humans we see death as a bad thing, and it is,” Richburg said. “It is sad that he was a young kid that didn’t get a chance to live his life and didn’t get a chance to experience the things that life brings. But I believe what it says in Romans 8:28 in the Bible, ‘God works everything out for the good.’ Right now it is hard to see that.”
Richburg intends to wear his Team Jayro bracelet going forward. He added Beckham might celebrate a touchdown with a special dance.
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