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UTEP Players enter training camp with heavy hearts following Walmart mass shooting

The UTEP football team is gearing up for the upcoming season, and that means the annual trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico for training camp.

However, this year the mood at camp is a lot different following Saturday’s deadly mass shooting at an east El Paso Walmart.

The team departed for Ruidoso on Sunday, a day after the shooting, and while the focus at camp is strictly on football, the events of this past weekend are not far from their minds.

UTEP running back Deion Hankins told ABC-7 his mother and younger sister were at the nearby Fountains shopping center at the time of the Walmart shooting, which is about a block away from the Fountains.

Hankins is from El Paso and recently graduated from Parkland High School.

“I had a heavy heart, so I was just calling them,” Hankins said. “We feel for them and we all have heavy hearts, so now it just gives us more of a motivation to perform for our community out in this camp.”

Wide receiver, Kavika Johnson, who is from nearby Las Cruces, NM echoed the same sentiments.

“We’re really putting the city on our back now,” Johnson said. “We’re playing not just for ourselves, but we’re playing for those people who were affected by the tragedy in El Paso, so we come out here and we have a little more to play for.”

In times of tragedy, sports can play a big part in the healing process, and UTEP head coach Dana Dimel is hopeful the team rises to the occasion.

“I’m so proud of the city and the law enforcement and how they handled it, so right now our guys are focused on football, but they also know that there are a lot more important things than football,” Dimel said.

“This should be a very good motivation for them to go out and really try to represent and show that our football team is moving in the right direction and do some positive things for the whole city cause there’s great passion for our football team in the city. We all know that everybody cares, and we got to give them a good product.”

UTEP’s season kicks-off at the Sun Bowl, August 31st, against Houston Baptist.

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