Senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe’s world was tragically turned upside down just two days before Texas played Iowa State.
Joe’s brother, Brayden, passed away on Sept. 26 at just 21 years old. A cause of death was not given by Texas. The Longhorns opened Big 12 play two days later on a Thursday night in Ames, Iowa. Even in the brief aftermath of losing his brother, Joe still made the trip with the team and played.
“That’s something that he’d want me to do — go out there and play,” Joe said.
When Joe received the news that his brother had passed, the first person to console him was junior punter Michael Dickson.
“He saw me breaking down,” Joe said. “I told him what was wrong, and I told him, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be right here.’”
But Dickson stayed with Joe and walked with him.
“I knew it was pretty serious,” Dickson said. “I just wanted to be there with him. Not even say anything — just put my arm around him. I didn’t know what had happened at the time. I was glad I was there to be with him at a time like that.”
That sentiment permeated throughout the Texas locker room as the Longhorns rallied behind Joe.
“We’re all brothers on this team,” junior left guard Patrick Vahe said. “We leave nobody behind. (If) it affects him, it affects us. We just try to stick together as really one family. I know his feeling, so we made sure that we keep his head up and keep his heart going.”
Joe was able to attend Brayden’s funeral in their hometown of Abilene, Texas, two days after the Iowa State game.
Before Texas took the field against the Cyclones, Joe found out he would be getting a chance to do something that he had never done before in his Texas career.
For years, it’s been customary for the Longhorns to be led out onto the field by players carrying the American and Texas flags as a sign of patriotism and respect. Joe was picked to carry the American flag and lead the team out at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a surreal moment for Joe.
“They said, ‘Hey, get out there and lead the team out,’” Joe said. “It was emotional, especially after losing a family member. I was kind of tearing up. But it was awesome to lead the team out there and especially get a win.”
On that night, the Longhorns grinded out a 17-7 victory to get back to .500 on the season. Joe had just one reception for zero yards, but that didn’t matter.
Just simply being on a football field was an escape from the pain for Joe.
“When I get on the field, it’s like I’m on a little island,” Joe said. “I kind of get away from everything and stop thinking about the outside stuff. After the game’s over, that’s when that stuff kind of hits you back. But when you’re on the field, it’s football.”
And football helped begin an all-important process — healing.