(NEW YORK) — When Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett scored his first NFL career touchdown Sunday against the Chicago Bears, he was seen on camera blowing a kiss to the sky.
The kiss, Barrett later said, was for his 2-year-old daughter Arrayah, who died in April after drowning in a swimming pool at the family’s Tampa residence.
“The camera was on me after I made the play. I told her, ‘I love you. I miss you. Wish you was here,’” Barrett told reporters after the game. “I’m glad I’m able to still get some spotlight for her, and to the Lord above, because he’s the reason that we’re here right now. I’m just trusting his plan.”
Arrayah was the youngest of Barrett’s four children with his wife Jordanna.
She was taken to a local hospital after falling into a swimming pool at the family’s home the morning of April 30, but was pronounced dead a short time later despite life saving measures that were taken following the incident, according to a statement from the Tampa Police Department obtained by ESPN.
Barrett, wearing a necklace tribute to his daughter, said Sunday that faith has kept him and his family going in the months since Arrayah’s death.
“My faith never really wavered going through this situation. I needed him more now [and then] than I needed him ever,” Barrett said. “That was the only way our family was going to make do, by leaning on each other and trusting in the Lord.”
Barrett called his interception and touchdown Sunday against the Bears “divine intervention,” saying, “I do feel like it was divine intervention to be able to get that spotlight for my baby girl.”
“I always played for my family already, but having that extra incentive makes me want to go a little harder for her,” Barrett said. “It never stops sucking. It’s always going to suck, but at least I’m able to shine a little bit of a spotlight on her.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.
Shortly after Arrayah’s death, Barrett’s wife paid tribute to their daughter in an Instagram post, writing, “Our world will never be the same. Arrayah was the apple of my eye, and my heart will forever be with hers.”
Writing directly to Arrayah, she also wrote, in part, “We love you forever and ever and always. I can’t wait to see that precious smile again, and just hug you so close. I would do absolutely anything.”
In June, Jordanna Barrett shared on Instagram that the couple is expecting another child.
“I just know Arrayah had a special hand in picking this sweet girl to add to our family!” she captioned a photo of a positive pregnancy test. “We are so beyond blessed, so beyond grateful that God chose to give us another little girl! We miss our Arrayah every second of every day, but I rest in knowing she’s going to be the best big sister angel to little miss Allanah!”
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