Barry Wesley had told himself to be confident, but now he was starting to shake. His palms dampened with sweat. His heart kicked like a double bass drum. Later he would compare the moment to a terrified cliff diver standing on the edge of a 50-foot bluff, staring down at a blackened abyss, “and there’s no water in sight.”
In reality, the nervous 20-year-old was occupying an aisle seat behind the home sideline at sunny Canvas Stadium, where he has anchored Colorado State’s offensive line for the past two seasons. His teammates were there too, socially distanced across the stands, their looks of concern and confusion covered by medical face masks. Down in front, standing next to a few college administrators, coach Steve Addazio offered an introduction to this emergency, all-but-mandatory team meeting on June 12.
Halfway up the bleachers, his words penetrated Wesley’s fog in fragments:
… one of our teammates … involved in a situation … the climate of this country … Barry? Where are you sitting?
A weak hand went up, and Wesley slowly rose from his seat. He stepped into the aisle and trudged down the stairs, growing increasingly unsettled with each set of eyes that turned to him. At the front, where Addazio ceded the floor, Wesley—6′ 6″, 305 pounds—turned to face his teammates and steadied himself with a deep breath, counting: one … two … three. Then he spoke about what he calls “the most unforgettable day” of his life. Yesterday.