Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III will be carrying the memory of fallen soldier and avid Gators fan Pablo Ruiz when he takes the field in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.
Master Sgt. Ruiz fell in love with football and befriended Sgt. Brian Boyd when they were fishing, and their bond was forged by the Florida Gators. Eventually, Ruiz and Boyd both joined the army, where their friendship grew stronger. Ruiz served in the army for 12 years before passing away in a non combat-related incident in Afghanistan at the age of 37, according to the Army Times.
Following Ruiz’s death, Boyd created a bracelet to honor his friend that included his name, military information and date of his death. Eventually, Boyd gave the bracelet to Hargreaves to wear for Florida’s game against Florida Atlantic, during which the Gators honored the military.
“It means a lot,” Hargreaves told ESPN’s Kaylee Hartung. “There’s no amount of thank yous, there’s no gifts that you can give somebody in the service for what they do because what they do is the ultimate sacrifice.”
Hargreaves has worn the bracelet ever since that game. He said he takes great pride in honoring Ruiz’s memory on the field.
Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III pays tribute to fallen soldier, and Florida Gators fan, SFC Pablo Ruiz.
“He died in honor,” Hargreaves told Hartung. “He died doing a great thing for our country. I’m very honored, I’m very, very blessed to receive his bracelet and I’m going to wear it with pride.”