EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This was the game Julian Love eagerly talked about with Joey Ramos and Tony Lemon, seemingly from the moment he was drafted by the New York Giants.
Sunday’s trip to Soldier Field stood out there on the schedule as if it were arranged for the three childhood friends who met more than a decade earlier while playing youth football at the age of 9.
Love would be on the field, Ramos and Lemon had planned on being in the stands cheering him on.
A cruel twist of fate and tragedy has intervened.
Love will head back for his emotional homecoming with a heavy heart after Ramos and Lemon were killed in a one-car accident over the weekend. The men had been missing since Sunday and their car was found and pulled from Lake Michigan on Tuesday.
“A tragedy like this happens, and everything gets put into perspective,” Love told NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY NETWORK Northeast after practice Wednesday.
“Joey was a big Bears fan, and this is the game where, I have no doubt they’d be there Sunday cheering me on. It’s hard, it’s definitely hard, but they’ll be with me this way, too. They’ll be there in spirit.”
Very heartbroken. 2 of the best people I know, taken too soon. All love ❤️— Julian Love (@julianlove27) November 19, 2019
The 21-year-old Love said he last spent time with Ramos, 22, and Lemon, 21, back in April, and they relished his opportunity as part of the celebration that ensued when the Giants selected the former Notre Dame star in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
“Very sudden, and you feel that loss, you really feel that, and I’m feeling that heartache,” Love said. “We played Little League ball together growing up, very close family friends, used to be over their houses all the time, a super sad thing. Kept in touch when I went to college, two great guys, great people. I wish I could’ve seen them more.”
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said investigators determined there was no foul play involved and “this was a horrific accident” that resulted in the loss of two cherished men gone too soon.
“Car appears to lose control & drive into the lake at a high rate of speed,” Guglielmi tweeted. “Our heartfelt condolences to all those affected.”
Love said he anticipates having a group of nearly 40 family members and friends inside the stadium on Sunday. He promises his game day focus will be on being a professional and doing his job with the hope that the Giants can snap their current six-game losing streak.
And there is no denying Love will run out of the tunnel at Soldier Field with more than victory on his heart and mind.
“It’s tough not to think about it, especially when they’re your age,” Love said. “But, I know they supported me know matter what, and that’s what I take with me. Already, going into Chicago, I was going in with a chip on my shoulder. This definitely adds another layer, another sense of emotion to it. Going home already meant something, and now it’s going to mean that much more.”
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