In memory of Owen Thomas, Franklin Field will observe a moment of silence before Saturday’s home opener against Lafayette.
But for Thomas’ teammates and coaches, the memorial will last much longer than 60 seconds.
“He was the heart of this team. He was a great guy, a great leader, great player, great friend, everything — and we all miss him and love him and we do want to do it for him,” senior quarterback Keiffer Garton said.
Bagnoli said he hopes the Quakers can find a silver lining to the tragic offseason. Thomas’ suicide in his off campus apartment last April came just three weeks after Dan “Coach Lake” Staffieri, the face of Penn football and game-day coordinator, succumbed to his battle with cancer.
“Hopefully in the long run we dedicate the season to Owen, we dedicate the season to Coach Lake. We’ve got two rallying cries,” said coach Al Bagnoli.
The players will wear “Lake” and “40” decals on their helmets this season to pay tribute.
In addition, the Quakers have left Thomas’ locker untouched — his jersey, helmet and spikes still sit in Franklin Field.
The seniors also included his jersey in annual photos taken with the team.
“We’ve talked about it and it was real rough at first but we’ve all kinda come to terms with it in our own way and dealt with it, whether individually or being able to lean on one another,” Garton said.
Bagnoli said that this season will have a special meaning for the players on the field.
“You try to turn everything that’s tragic into the best possible thing you can,” he said. “So if that means our kids are going to play a little bit harder because he’s in their memory and they want to do it for him, that’s just another motivating chip that they have.”
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