San Francisco 49ers bring fire-struck Paradise High School team to game via bus

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After days of watching and hearing stories about how one of the deadliest wildfires in California history had torn through their community, the Paradise High Football team found some relief Monday night in the form of a bus ride.

After the San Francisco 49ers invited the Paradise team to Monday night’s game against the New York Giants, the 35 players, 16 cheerleaders and eight coaches boarded a bus provided by the Niners Monday in Chico, California, at around 11 a.m. to make the roughly 200-mile trek to Levi’s Stadium.

While everyone in the traveling party was looking forward to the game and expressed gratitude to the Niners for the invitation, the two things they wanted most could be found on that bus: an opportunity to sleep and a chance to spend time with their friends and teammates.

“I think the biggest reaction was on the bus ride here when they all slept,” coach Rick Prinz said. “They’re exhausted. They’re all displaced. (Almost) all of their homes have burned down. They’ve lost everything.”

“We were all just hanging out and having a good time with each other,” senior quarterback Cole Cline said. “We all really missed each other.”

The invitation to spend the evening with the Niners came after the Camp Fire ripped through Paradise late last week.

After word that Paradise, which was 8-2 despite being the smallest school in its section, had to forfeit their playoff appearance made its way back to the Niners, they got in touch with the Butte County Office of Education.

Soon enough, the Niners had offered buses for the team to come to Monday night’s game and stand with them on the sideline during the National Anthem.

Earlier Monday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department announced that the death toll in and around Paradise had reached 29, matching the number for most deaths from a single fire in modern California history. More than 200 other people remain unaccounted for and more than 6,400 homes had been destroyed, according to the sheriff’s department.

“What that town, what that community has gone through, it’s just heart wrenching, gut wrenching for all of us,” general manager John Lynch said. “So, you just look for anything you can do. I think when you can take people’s minds off something for a short time, of course we’d do anything possible. I think it’s just a show of solidarity of our community, we’ve got to all stand together and reach out and help each other during a time like this.”

The Niners also will donate all proceeds from Monday night’s 50/50 drawing to the North Valley Community Foundation to help those impacted by the fires in Butte County.

In addition, San Francisco tight end George Kittle, quarterback Nick Mullens, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, left tackle Joe Staley and running back Matt Breida are signing and donating their game-worn jerseys from Monday night to be auctioned off with all money going to relief efforts.

Shane Wallen, the 49ers assistant strength and conditioning coach, grew up in Paradise, is a native of Chico and has started a GoFundMe page in efforts to offer support for his hometown. The fire destroyed Wallen’s father’s home in Magalia.

With the help of multiple Niners players making donations and lending their social media platforms, Wallen had already raised more than $19,000 of the $50,000 goal as of early Monday evening. Wallen stopped and greeted each player on Monday night.

During the National Anthem, the Paradise team stood in front of the 49ers on the sideline and received loud cheers from the fans at Levi’s Stadium. As the anthem began, Niners players put their arms around the Paradise players in solidarity.

“It’s nice to get away from everything that’s going on and getting my mind off of it,” senior linebacker Trevor Rickson said. “And I get to watch football, the game I love.”

While the school survived the fire, about 90 percent of the players’ homes did not. Like most of the community, the coaches, players and cheerleaders have spent the past few days living elsewhere and seeking updates on the status of their own houses.

Cline said he initially didn’t believe his parents when they told him they needed to evacuate last Thursday morning. Within an hour, the town was engulfed in flames. He and his family safely made it out and have been staying at a hotel in nearby Folsom. Cline and his family found out their home burned down on Sunday.

Rickson has a similar story, albeit with a different ending, leaving his home with his mother and sister around 9 a.m. on Thursday and going to his aunt’s house in Chico. His house, in a neighborhood where most burned down, is still standing.

“It’s hard but they all have a place to stay if they need it,” Rickson said.

Both players expressed their dismay at not being able to play the playoff game they’d spent their high school careers working toward. In the absence of the chance to play, Cline said he and his teammates have leaned on the lessons they’ve learned from the game to help them stay positive through the most trying of times.

“We just rely on each other to pick each other up and just love each other because that’s what we’ve done all year,” Cline said. “We’re a great group of brothers.”

Like Rickson, Prinz’s house also managed to survive the fire, a fact that was confirmed via texts from friends who sent pictures.

“Nothing around it made it and somehow it’s standing there and I don’t know how to explain that,” Prinz said. “And it makes you feel a little bit guilty and grateful at the same time. But Paradise is devastated.

“I can’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe it guys if you saw it. It’s on a hillside, everything is gone and there sits that house. It’s a miracle.”

After Monday’s game, the Paradise contingent will take the long ride back to Butte County and disperse to where they’re staying — some in hotels, some with relatives and some in evacuation shelters.

As of Monday night, they still haven’t been allowed to return to town to survey the damage. They don’t know what comes next. But for one night, they were happy to get away from it all.

“One of my players said it best after we suspended our season, he said, ‘I really want to play the game but I lost everything I own and I need to find out where I’m going to live,'” Prinz said. “So, this was a great break from that. He’s on this trip. That’s most of the team and most of the coaching staff. So, it’s a great diversion. It’s fantastic. And all of this … they’re going to remember it forever. It’s just a great show of humanity and support for us from people you don’t even know who would come in and be this kind.”

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Ohio State DE Nick Bosa leaving school, looking to draft

Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa has withdrawn from school to focus on his rehabilitation of an injured core muscle, the Buckeyes announced Tuesday. The All-American will now presumably turn his attention to the 2019 NFL draft.

“I was hopeful that Nick would be able to return to play again for us,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. “I know this was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for Nick and his family, and I wish him well as he moves on to get himself 100 percent healthy and ready for his next chapter. I want to thank Nick for the remarkable efforts he gave for this program. He is a first-class young man who we have been honored to coach.”

Bosa, a junior, injured a core muscle in the third quarter of a 40-28 win over TCU on Sept. 15, had surgery to repair the injury on Sept. 20 and has since been recovering. The reigning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year had not been cleared for team activities and was ruled out for the upcoming game against Purdue.

Through just three games of the season, Bosa had four sacks and six tackles for loss and was leading the team in tackles at the time of the injury.

Nick is the younger brother of Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who also starred at Ohio State and was selected third overall in the 2016 NFL draft. Nick
Bosa is the No. 1 prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest Big Board rankings of the top players for the 2019 draft.

The injury is not expected to impact Bosa’s draft status.

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School head resigns over comment about black quarterbacks

HOUSTON — A white Texas school superintendent who posted online that “You can’t count on a black quarterback,” in reference to Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, has resigned.

In a letter Saturday to the Onalaska Independent School District board, Lynn Redden said his comment posted earlier in the week on the Houston Chronicle’s Facebook page was “wrong and inappropriate.”

He also apologized to Watson, who is black, and pointed out that the quarterback could have criticized him for his comment but instead “chose peace and positivity.”

Redden had criticized Watson for letting the clock run down before completing a pass in a 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Redden’s comment prompted the school board to convene a special meeting Saturday.

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J.J. Watt of Houston Texans will pay for funerals of Santa Fe High School shooting victims

HOUSTON — Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will pay for the funerals of those killed in the shooting at Santa Fe High School, the team confirmed.

Ten people were killed Friday morning and 10 more wounded after a 17-year-old carrying a shotgun and revolver opened fire at the high school about 30 miles from downtown Houston.

According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, nine of the victims were students. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.”

According to police officials, the 17-year-old is in custody and has been charged with capital murder, and a second person has been detained.

Shortly after the shooting, Watt tweeted, “Absolutely horrific.”

Watt has been active in the surrounding community since he was drafted by Houston in 2011. Most notably, he started a fundraiser last August that raised more than $37 million for those affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

The Texans also released a statement.

“On behalf of the Texans organization, we are saddened by the tragic events at Sante Fe High School this morning and extend our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families and all those affected. We are grateful for the brave first responders, law enforcement officials and medical personnel. The Texans family will continue to pray for our neighbors.”

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Josh Allen apologizes after offensive tweets from high school resurface

On the eve on the NFL draft, offensive tweets from a potential No. 1 pick, Josh Allen, surfaced on social media.

The former Wyoming quarterback acknowledged the tweets to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith late Wednesday night and apologized, saying he was young and dumb.

The tweets no longer appear on Allen’s account. However, they contained racial slurs and other offensive language, according to reporting by Yahoo! Sports.

The tweets cited by Yahoo! Sports were sent in 2012 and 2013, when Allen was in high school.

Allen is ranked as the top quarterback in the draft, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., and is projected by many to be selected by the Cleveland Browns with the first overall pick.

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Julian Edelman of New England Patriots helps stop potential school shooter

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is prolific on his personal Instagram account, and his interaction with those who follow him might have prevented a potential tragedy.

As first reported in The New York Times, Edelman was visiting former teammate Danny Amendola in Texas in late March when he received a direct message on Instagram that read, “Dude, there is a kid in your comment section says he s going to shoot up a school, I think you should alert the authority.”

In an interview with the Times, Edelman explained that he notified his assistant in Boston, who found the message that read: “I’m going to shoot my school up watch the news.”

Edelman’s assistant then called 911, and the message was ultimately traced to a 14-year-old boy in Port Huron, Michigan. When police arrived at the boy’s home, according to the Times, he admitted to posting the threat. Authorities also found two rifles that belonged to his mother, a police chief told the Times.

The boy was taken to a juvenile-detention center and remains there after being charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism.

Edelman plans to send something to the Instagram follower who alerted him about the threat, telling the Times, “He’s the real hero.”

“It’s not good enough anymore to disregard comments like those as offhanded,” said Don Yee, who is Edelman’s agent. “All of us, including players, are learning together to take these kinds of things very seriously.”

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Harvard-Westlake High School files workplace violence prevention restraining order against Jonathan Martin

Harvard-Westlake High School filed a workplace violence prevention restraining order against former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin on Thursday at the Santa Monica Courthouse, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Martin was detained for questioning in Los Angeles last Friday as a result of a threatening image posted on social media but was released later in the day, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

A law enforcement source told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that Martin was being held in a mental health facility.

It’s unclear if Martin posted the image to the verified Instagram account that is believed to be his.

The image on the Instagram account said: “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.” The image showed a shotgun and ammunition and tagged four accounts, including those belonging to former Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey. It also included hashtags for Harvard-Westlake, where Martin went to high school, and the Miami Dolphins.

Another person tagged was James Dunleavy. Martin went to Harvard-Westlake with a James Dunleavy, who is the son of former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy and went on to play basketball at USC.

Martin accused Incognito and Pouncey of bullying him in 2013 when they were teammates in Miami, which resulted in an NFL investigation. The investigation found that Incognito, Pouncey and John Jerry created a hostile working environment for Martin, who left the team in the middle of the season.

Incognito was suspended for eight games by the NFL because of the investigation.

Martin hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015. Weeks after retiring, Martin posted a lengthy message on Facebook explaining that he suffered from depression and had tried to kill himself on multiple occasions.

Harvard-Westlake, an elite private school in Los Angeles, closed last Friday morning in response to the post, but police told ESPN there was no direct threat to the school.

According to a source, the Dolphins’ security director reached out to the league to make officials aware of the post. Pouncey was also made aware.

ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Mike Rodak contributed to this report.

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How school lunch with Nick Foles changed a child’s life – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

Four framed photographs hang on a wall at Garret and Lauren Chachere’s house outside New Orleans.

Three are typical — one of Lauren with her sons Garrett and Jackson, the second of their son Noah and, finally, Lauren with her bridesmaids on their wedding day. The fourth is atypical. Their son Grant standing next to Nick Foles in the front office of Grant’s elementary school.

The fourth photo was taken when Grant was in sixth grade and his dad, Garret, was an assistant football coach at the University of Arizona. Foles, who will lead the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, played quarterback at the school from 2009-11.

Garret, who coached receivers for two seasons and running backs for the third, didn’t work directly with Foles, but knew him well enough. When Foles arrived in Tucson as a transfer from Michigan State, Garret had no idea what kind of person Foles was off the field.

He soon found out.

Life as the new kid

During a father-son conversation in early May 2011, Garret asked Grant how he was adjusting to his new school. As a football coach, Garret had moved his family around the country. Arizona was his eighth stop since his career began in 1992. Grant would spend a few years at each school before the family moved on to Garret’s next job.

Garret trod lightly when talking with his son, asking how Grant was adjusting and if he was making friends. Grant, nonchalantly, mentioned he had been eating lunch at school by himself.

“I was not happy with that,” said Garrett, who soon discovered his son was having trouble fitting in.

Grant, who had a stutter back then, was being picked on, teased and made fun of by his classmates. He knew it was hard for his classmates to understand him.

“People thought I was different from everybody else. … ‘Let’s go make fun of the guy that’s different,'” said Grant, now 18 and a college freshman.

In addition to his speech impediment, Grant said he was shy. Those issues, coupled with moving every few years, led to Grant having just a friend or two at school. Garret knew it was hard on Grant to keep moving schools. Just when his classmates would get to know him and his circle of friends would start to grow, the family would move.

In Tucson, Grant either ate by himself in the lunch room or in a classroom with a teacher who started looking out for him.

“I just thought it was kind of normal because I was doing that for a little while,” Grant said. “I only had maybe one or two friends. But sometimes I didn’t eat with them. I didn’t know who my true friends were. It was a big deal cause at the time, when you’re young, you see other people interacting with a bunch of people and they have a bunch of friends, and you have maybe one or two friends, maybe none at all, it’s really hard for you to process that.”

Helping his son

Garret knew something needed to be done, so he hatched a plan: He was going to have lunch with Grant at school on his birthday later that month. To make the experience even better, Garret decided to bring along one of his Arizona players. At the time, he was Arizona’s running backs coach, so he first asked one of his running backs if they’d join him but the player had a final exam and couldn’t make it.

Who he brought with him — and more importantly, who he told about his son’s situation — was a decision Garret wanted to make carefully. He had a strong relationship with Foles. Grant knew him. Why not ask the quarterback, Garret thought.

“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life.”

Grant Chachere, on his lunch with Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

This all took place at a time when when Foles’ star was shooting straight up. He threw for 3,191 yards and 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior in 2010. On top of all that, he was impossible to miss, standing 6-foot-6, with long, blond hair. He looked more like Shaggy Rogers, Grant said, than the short-haired, bespectacled Foles who has been in the spotlight all week at Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.

Garret called Foles.

When Foles answered, Garret began by saying he had a favor to ask. Details were, intentionally, held back. Foles wavered at first, saying he needed to study for an upcoming exam. Garret understood and told Foles not to worry about it. Then Foles asked what the favor was.

Garret explained everything — how Grant had a developmental disorder, how he was being bullied, how he ate lunch alone, how he planned to surprise Grant for his birthday, how he’d love it if Foles could join them.

Foles didn’t hesitate. He was in.

The big day

When Garret and Foles walked into Grant’s school that Friday, the buzz spread quickly. Autograph requests began as they waited in the front office. Teachers and administrators asked Foles to sign for their children — and for them. When they reached the cafeteria, the secret was out about Foles being at the school. But there was one problem: They couldn’t find Grant.

Everyone looked, and he was found eating lunch in a classroom with a teacher. By the time Grant and his visitors made it back to the lunch room, lunch was almost over.

“He comes out and he sees me and Nick, and so at that point, he’s kind of a little stunned,” Garret said.

Grant said: “The fact that he came to eat lunch with me really shocked me because it came out of nowhere. You wouldn’t expect it.”

When they finally were eating, Foles started to get inundated with autograph requests. He politely declined them all, explaining to the star-struck kids he was at their school to eat lunch with his friend Grant. To this day, that moment sticks out to Garret, who didn’t ask Foles to not sign. That was all Foles.

After they finished their meals, there was still time left in recess and kids were outside playing football. Grant had played a handful of times throughout the school year but on that day, he had one of the best quarterbacks in college football hanging out with him, so, of course, he was asked to play.

Foles was the all-time quarterback for both teams and with the game tied and a few minutes remaining, Foles threw a pass to the end zone. Garret called it a Hail Mary. Grant, who later was a two-year letter winner as a fullback in high school, called it a vertical route. Whichever, Foles’ pass was perfect and Grant caught it in stride for the winning touchdown.

That’s still one of the moments from that day etched in Grant’s memory.

Before Garret and Foles left, they stopped so Foles could take a picture with Grant — the one that now hangs in the Chachere’s living room.

“He’s had a special place in our family’s hearts,” Garret said of Foles. “My dad roots for him. [Grant’s] grandfather on his mom’s side roots for him.

“My wife though, that next year, she would always bake stuff for Nick or do stuff for Nick. He had a special place for us. We never talked about it again. It’s something that lasts in both of our minds as a memorable experience.”

Act of kindness bears fruit

Memorable, yes, but that day — those few hours — changed Grant’s life. He became more social and had an easier time making friends in the future.

“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life, and I really thought that throughout my whole life,” Grant said. “I always talk to people to see how their days are going. It actually changed my whole perspective on life.”

Grant, now, is thriving. He’s in his freshman year of college at New Mexico Highlands University, where his dad is an assistant football coach. He’s thinking about pursuing a career in business or marketing.

Whatever he ends up doing after college, Grant will take the lessons he learned from Foles with him.

“You can be this big star, but the way you grew up and the way you interact with people, from the way your parents saw you, really determines how you are as a person,” Grant said.

“What that really taught me was you can be whoever you want to be, but at the end of the day, it’s about your character and about the things you do for the better of the world instead of thinking about yourself.”

Catching up

Two weeks ago, as the Eagles were preparing for the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Garret asked Grant if he wanted to reach out to Foles. It had been awhile since they had talked.

Through a mutual friend, Garret got Foles’ number and both Garret and Grant sent the quarterback text messages the night before the then-biggest game of his life.

In his message, Grant congratulated Foles on making the conference championship and passed along this message: “You are a great leader and you’ve always had that ability to lead because a lot of people like you, and not only do they like you, they trust you as a leader.” He finished the text by telling Foles “everybody believes in you. Your teammates believe in you. Your family believes in you.”

Grant also included a picture of the picture of them.

Foles wrote back quickly: “Thanks, Grant. That means a lot.”

There’ll be another text this weekend before the biggest game of Foles’ life, from the young man whose life changed to the man who changed it.

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