Chris Smith will take the field with his team on Monday, less than one week after his girlfriend’s sudden death in a car accident.
The Cleveland Browns defensive end, 27, confirmed his intention to play in a statement given to PEOPLE, saying, “I am going to play tonight because it is something she would want me to do.”
“She would want me to keep doing what I love and stay strong,” he continued of girlfriend Petara Cordero. “I play for her tonight. She is my why.”
The Browns will play the New York Jets at 8:15 P.M. EST on Monday.
Cordero died just weeks after the couple welcomed daughter Haven Harris Smith. The 26-year-old was struck by a car and killed in front of the NFL player. Cordero was a passenger in Smith’s Lamborghini when a tire blew out, causing their vehicle to swerve and hit a median on I-90 West in Cleveland, according to the Browns’ statement.
Cordero got out of the car uninjured, only to be struck by an oncoming Mazda. After being taken to Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital, Cordero was pronounced dead.
The driver of the oncoming vehicle admitted to drinking before the accident, and a toxicology report is pending, Cleveland police told CNN. Smith was not impaired, both the Browns’ statement and CNN reported.
Smith broke his silence about Cordero’s death over the weekend, writing on Instagram, “God has a plan for all of us we can’t understand but she is in a better place now and she can rest easy.”
“My wifey, my best friend and the mother of my beautiful daughter,” Smith continued.
Alongside the message, Smith included a slideshow of images highlighting some of the couple’s happy memories together.