NEW ORLEANS - A little more than a month after the tragic mass shooting of 26 students and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a group of 26 students from the school will perform America the Beautiful during the Super Bowl XLVII pregame show, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.
The league is flying the students and their families down to New Orleans later this week in advance of the performance, which will be broadcast live on CBS shortly before Alicia Keys performs the National Anthem.
The gesture will cap a season in which the league lent its support to the Newtown community via "S.H.E.S." stickers on helmets, personal messages on cleats and gloves, moments of silence before games and charitable donations for relief causes, as well other means of emotional support.
The New York Giants welcomed students and families onto the field during their pregame introductions before their Week 17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. That came a little less than two weeks after Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz paid an emotional visit to the family of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, a Cruz fan who was buried in a No. 80 Giants jersey.
"It was a time where I just wanted to be a positive voice, a positive light in a time where it can be very negative. It was a good time," Cruz said of his visit with the Pinto family. "They're a great family and they are really united right now at this time. It was good to see."
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson auctioned off his game-worn cleats on which he wrote all of the victims' names and gave the proceeds to the United Way's Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
The Houston Texans were one of the teams that raised money for the victims. Defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted a picture of him and a handful of students on the field the Friday before Houston's Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
"I just kind of wanted to give them as normal a day as possible, just running around, having fun, going out on the field," Watt told USA TODAY Sports. "We were kicking field goals. They were trying to put it through the uprights. Just be kids. And to see them in a normal setting, having fun and big smiles on their faces was awesome."
A group of Sandy Hook students recently recorded a version of Over the Rainbow with pop singer Ingrid Michaelson at the home of Connecticut residents Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, with the proceeds going to Newtown Youth Academy and the United Way of Western Connecticut.
Mike Garafolo, USA TODAY Sports