AUSTIN (KXAN) — A special guest before the game between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Louisiana State University Tigers will help send a message about an important cause.
Jacob Schick, a Marine combat veteran, will take the field for the coin toss Saturday.
“I’m essentially representing suicide prevention month via my nonprofit 22KILL,” Schick told KXAN Friday. “22KILL was started essentially as a movement in 2013 after a 2012 study from the VA came out saying on average 22 veterans die by suicide every day.”
While serving in Iraq in 2004, Schick’s vehicle hit a mine. The explosion, he said, left him severely injured.
“I did 18 months in the hospital. I had over 50 operations [and] over 20 blood transfusions,” Schick explained. “But the worst of it was being diagnosed with post traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury because those are the wounds you can’t see.”
Surviving that led him to create the nonprofit, 22KILL. The name may shock football fans when they hear it announced Saturday, but Schick said that’s the point.
“I have personally lost 30 friends to suicide, and eight have been killed in combat. I’m actually a third generation combat Marine,” Schick said. “It’s important that people understand that [suicide is] not just a warrior issue or a first responder or a law enforcement officer issue. We deal in human issues. We just happen to help humans that wore the uniform in one form or the other.”
Through his nonprofit, Schick said he works to provide programming and build community for those who are struggling.
“I would encourage you to find victory in your vulnerability and refuse to be a hostage to your pride, so you can grow and you can heal because you’re worthy of living well,” he said.
He added there’s no better way to spread that message than at one of the biggest games of the year.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the word out and let people know that it’s okay to not be okay,” Schick said. “Lean in and love hard and rely on your tribe. It gets better.”
Schick said he’s excited to be a part of the coin toss, but was told NCAA rules state he can’t actually touch the coin. However, he wants to try to do so anyway.