Oct. 20, 2009
STORRS, Conn. - The usual Tuesday media lunch at the Burton Family Football Complex was used to remember Jasper T. Howard, a junior cornerback for the Huskies who passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 20.
His coach, teammates and family all gathered in front of the media to pay tribute to a great friend, son and brother.
Jasper Howard's stepfather Henry Williams
When we first came here we had a lot of pain and hurt and were looking for a lot of questions to be answered. When we got here and we started talking to people, there was such an outpouring of concern and so much love for Jazz.
We got a lot of questions answered from the Chief of Police at UConn and the Captain of the State Police. We spoke with all of them and they were very nice to us giving us answers to questions that were on our mind.
But we would like to thank everyone at UConn. The college, the president, the coach, Mr. Pendergast. The community has shown so much love for Jazz that it makes the pain more bearable to deal with when you see the love around the institution. This is Jazz's second home. He treated it like that. When he came here he fell in love with this place. It makes me feel good and it makes his mother feel good to see the love that is coming from this place, seeing everything he learned here and what he has left here. Jazz touched a lot of people here.
We have a lot of pain, and we still have hurt, but we can go home now feeling a little better because our questions have been answered. The Captain of the State Police told me that the case will be solved, and I believe him.
Last night I met with the players, we all went into the locker room with the players and I just spoke to them and told them to make the rest of this season for Jazz. Because the know the type of player that he was. He loved football, he lived for football. But play your heart out for Jazz because he's going to be up there looking down and that will satisfy him and make him happy. If they can get to the Orange Bowl that will be great, and I am pulling for that!
The players are taking it hard and I can understand that but they need to cry their tears and suck it up and play this year for Jazz. He loved this program and this was his family and if they can do that, it will be a hell of a year.
I thank everybody in Connecticut, period, because this whole state has been good to Jazz and it will make me feel good to know that the love that came from everyone in this state left a mark on Jazz.
Senior Captain and fellow Cornerback Robert McClain
The last 48 hours have been rough. I can't stop seeing Jasper's face, hearing his laugh. We were the last ones to leave the locker room after the Louisville game and we were both already talking about West Virginia. We have to get over it but we can't forget our purpose for being here at UConn. We have to get ready for West Virginia and what he wanted most was to beat West Virginia this week because we have never beaten them in our career.
His parents are strong for the situation that came upon them, this quickly and for Jasper being so young. They were so supportive of the team and how they were supportive of Jasper and his career in football, how they have been supportive of UConn Football. Seeing their strength is going to give us strength through practice this week until West Virginia.
It is tough telling the young guys that this is something that you have to get over and you have to prepare. You don't want to completely forget him and keep it out of your mind because it is something you are never going to forget. I am never going to forget Jasper. As a captain this year, I have to really mentor everybody and keep their mind focused on what has to get done this week. It's like Coach Edsall said. We are going to have the JH on our helmet and he will never be forgotten. Every play I make, I make it for the team and for Jazz. That's what he would want, to go out there and make plays. I promise that I will go out there and make more plays than I have ever before in my football career for Jazz.
Everywhere I go I cant stop seeing Jazz's face and hearing his voice. The things that he used to laugh about and the things he used to do. After every play I would talk to him about different routes and certain ways the receivers would run their routes. It was like we had a bond on the field. I knew how to set up a block for him on a punt return, or make a tackle for him. It is going to be completely different going out on the field now. It is hard to replace a guy like that. But we are going to step up for UConn, the campus, the university, the football team. We all want to beat West Virginia because it's what Jazz wanted.
He played every play, like it was the last play he was going to play.
Redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Cody Endres
It was surreal. At first it was shock and then it was a weird mix of sadness and anger. We just have to come together as a team and a family and give each other strength to move on. I think we are all ready to get out there and get back to work.
There are certain guys that are taking it harder than others and you just have to pick them up and that is what we do with each other.
Its tough to focus but that is what we have to do. We have to get out there because that is what Jazz would have wanted. He was a fierce competitor and he would have wanted everyone to go out there and get this win for him and for us.
My locker is in the same corner as Jazz's and it is going to be a little weird. It is going to be strange because Jasper has a big personality and you love to be around the kid. But now he isn't going to be there and it is going to be weird at first and for a while I am sure but we will all get through it as a family.
I think staying busy is the best thing to do and getting out on the field and doing what we love to do just shows Jazz respect and will help us out as well.
Redshirt Junior Linebacker Lawrence Wilson
To hear a mother that lost her son and her main focus was to make sure that we go together and finish out the season strong are definitely words of encouragement. The whole night was emotional. For the first time here I saw some of my teammates cry and it just shows how much we love and miss Jasper.
It is hard to move forward with a loss like this. His mom and his parents want us to win so our team has to go out and practice hard. Since I was like 7 or 8 I have been playing football and this is definitely an escape for me. Going out on the field and doing what you love and not thinking is an escape that we need.
Jazz's dream was to make it to the NFL. He worked his hardest and everything he did was to be the best. It is just sad to see him go.
I am going to try to prepare just as Jazz would. I am going to perform my best for him and push other guys to do their best for him. I am going to try to get the team to rally and be strong just as his parents said, for Jasper, because he would want us to win.
He was becoming more of a leader and I could see that around practice. He wanted things to go right, he would help out Jerome Junior and Aaron Bagsby so I cant see him being the one in the middle of the fight, he would be the one trying to break it up.
Senior Wide Receiver Marcus Easley
We lost one of our brothers, one of our teammates and we are just trying to stay strong. It really doesn't even seem real to me, to be honest. Hours before, just hours before, we were trying win just playing a football game.
I'm not really sure about any of the players who might not play on Saturday. Really, to be honest, we haven't thought about West Virginia too much up until this morning. We have been trying to cope with our loss.
As I am sure many of you are familiar with Jazz, he would have wanted us to try not to dwell on it too much and try to go out there. Jazz was somebody I was day in and day out because I played wide receiver and defense. He was someone that I encountered pretty much everyday. He made be a better player, he was a great teammate and him not being here with us is going to be tough.
Jazz was full of energy, always looking to get better always trying to make everybody else better. Great friend, great teammate on and off the field. Jazz was Fun. Energetic. Definitely a personality. Dances around the locker room a lot. Just a good person to have around.
He is always going to be with us. This game most important because it is the first game after he passed. The rest of our season will not be the same.
Redshirt Senior Running Back Andre Dixon
This is an opponent that we or Coach Edsall hasn't beaten since we have been in the BIG EAST. Our biggest obstacle right now is trying to move forward from Jasper's death. No matter who we play, it'll be just as hard.
This isn't something that is technically in coach's job description. I guess, his way of dealing with it is helping us with Jazz's death.