Just one thing was missing from Jack Ventura’s emotional encounter with country superstar Garth Brooks last month at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles — the presence of his friend and former teammate.
“Ryan (Teixeira) was a huge Garth Brooks fan,” Ventura, 18, recalled.
Teixeira, an Arroyo Grande High School graduate who died in March at age 20 after his second cancer diagnosis, never got a chance to see Brooks in concert. So when Ventura met Brooks after the first of two fair concerts the country star performed July 27 with wife Trisha Yearwood, he made sure to honor Teixeira’s memory.
“It was just a connection I wanted to make,” said Ventura, who graduated from Arroyo Grande High in June and will study international business management at the University of Georgia.
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According to Ventura, Teixeira was a devoted country fan who kept every album Brooks had recorded in his car.
On school mornings, fresh from football practice, Teixeira and his fellow linebackers would sit in the back seat of that 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle listening to those CDs, Ventura said, taking turns singing lyrics into a toy microphone while they waited for the bell to ring.
Memories of those moments surfaced as Ventura watched Brooks perform at the Paso Robles Event Center. “Through the entire concert,” the teen said, “it was steadily there in the back of my mind.”
Afterward, Ventura ventured backstage with his father, mother and three sisters. His dad, retired Major League Baseball player Robin Ventura, shares an alma mater with the country star — Oklahoma State University — and arranged a meeting with Brooks.
Jack Ventura brought along a hat patterned in Teixeira’s favorite camouflage. The hat was stamped with the logo of the nonprofit Teixeira started before his death, 17 Strong, which sends “young adults with life-threatening illnesses on a ‘victory trip’ of their choice.”
Brooks listened to Ventura’s stories of his friend, and posed for a photo wearing the hat.
Then the country star asked Ventura to pass along a special message. “He said, ‘Well, tell (Teixeira) I said, ‘Hello,’ because I know you still talk to him,” recalled Ventura, audibly moved by the memory.
“It meant a lot to me,” said Ventura, who gave the hat to Ryan Teixeira’s mother, Holly.
Holly Teixeira said the hat will have a place of honor in her family’s Pismo Beach home once they finish repairing extensive damage from a January fire.
“We’re really proud of Jack” for going outside of his comfort zone and reaching out to Brooks, she said. “It was just amazing to see a young man go out on a limb ... and preach something he’s passionate about. That, to me, is what’s so special about this.”
For more information about 17 Strong, visit seventeenstrong.org.