MINNEAPOLIS - He was a soccer fanatic, a hockey goalie, a football player, and he always wore number 11. So as Minnesota remembers Jacob Wetterling, it's that number that's now a symbol of his spirit.
“We're being held by everyone who's reaching out,” said Alison Feigh, a childhood classmate of Jacob’s who now works at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Foundation.
Everyone, including kids across the state, from Redwood Area runners, to swimmers in Chanhassen, to third graders in Thief River Falls. Photo after photo after photo posted on social media to show love for Jacob and his family, thousands of people honoring his memory and 11 traits he lived by.
“We saw (the tributes) and immediately wanted to do it,” said Paul Rovnak of the University of Minnesota athletic department. “Minnesota is a special place, and Minnesotans like to take care of one another. And this is a story that touched the heart of every Minnesotan.”
That's why every fan at Saturday's Gopher football game against Indiana State will get a sticker with Jacob’s name and the number 11 as they walk in the stadium, and all the coaches will wear them on the sideline. Mascot Goldy Gopher will trade his usual jersey for one with Jacob's favorite number, and a tribute will fill the scoreboard during the game's first quarter.
“It's not just professional athletes, it's not just athletes (affected by Jacob’s legacy),” said Dustin Morse of the Minnesota Twins. “It's really everybody.”
The Twins will have a similar image on their videoboard Friday night, with a pregame moment of remembrance. A logo in the outfield will commemorate Jacob the rest of the season, and all the team staff will pin on buttons, while the players will wear patches on their uniforms. And this weekend's opponent, the Cleveland Indians, will wear them, too.
“All the outpouring of love, all those responses,” said Feigh. “It's amazing.”
Amazing, like the boy who touched so many, and the family whose wish is that his hope lives on.
“The Wetterlings are being held up by the support of everybody,” Feigh said. “And that's felt and that's known, and they're thankful.”