Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

Two Years Later: The Passing Of My Friend And Teammate Jasper Howard

// October 19th, 2011 // 6 Comments » // Uncategorized

jasper-howardSince sitting down to write my thoughts on Jasper’s passing, much has changed in my life, the lives of us that knew him, and (more importantly) the lives of those that had the privilege to call him family;  Jasper’s daughter is one year older, suspects have been prosecuted, and the lives of UConn students and football players have been changed forever.  With the 2011 season in full swing, the games are still important, the day to day of football is still a grind to those fortunate to be in the mix, but  even on their worst days, they know deep down it’s “just a game.”

I know Jazz wouldn’t want us to be upset, but it’s certainly hard not to be.  He was a man of incredible work ethic and integrity and devotion—lessons that he continues to share with us, the friends and brothers he’s left behind

[Originally Posted  October 19th, 2009]
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to a Monday night football game. In the stands, I sat with my former teammates, joking and laughing.
UConn’s star cornerback, Jasper “Jazz” Howard, sat next to me.

While Jazz and I were hardly best friends, we were teammates, on the same defensive unit, who shared many laughs and, of course, trying moments together.

“How are the guys doing?” I asked Jazz that night.

“Young, man,” he replied in a throaty, soft-spoken voice, which sounded strained but was always at ease. “Real young. But, you know, we still gonna bang.” (A smile crept across his face as he said this.)

Fast-forward to a homecoming game this past weekend, where I selfishly explored my own emotions on being at a place where, for five years, I was very much on the inside, metaphorically and physically. Inside the locker room, inside the huddles, inside the football mentality.

On Saturday, I returned to my home stadium, for the first time, and was very much on the outside. Outside the lines, outside the players’ box, outside the locker room.

After the game, I got to join my teammates, my brothers, in the fight song. I made my rounds, slapping hands, hugging and smiling, exchanging the typical locker-room jabs. I went over to Jazz, congratulated him on his excellent game (an interception, forced fumble and about 13 tackles). Laughing, he told me I was almost as skinny as he was, and I reminded him that he was still about 1000 times the athlete I’d ever be.

The entire time I was there, I was thinking, “Man, this is awful.” I am not yet at a place where I can enjoy watching the game from which I am less than a year removed. I was emotional about the smells, and on my long drive home, I had a lot of time to reflect on how much I missed playing, how important it was to me — things that in less than 24 hours would suddenly seem so much less significant.

I left that locker room. I came back to Boston. I went to sleep.

I woke up, and everything had changed.

The text messages said it all:

“Call me, we need to talk”

“Jazz is dead”

“S— went down last night”

I look back at that moment, from my Monday morning perspective, and I am embarrassed. A lot changed from Saturday afternoon’s pettiness to Monday’s deeper meaning. All my complaints about being done playing football didn’t matter. My teammate and friend had lost his life, leaving behind a family, a girlfriend, a daughter on the way.

Instead of enjoying the fruits of homecoming, remembering the good days, I am trying to make sense of something that is senseless.

How does a kid who makes it out of Miami — leaving the violence of his hometown by his own reckoning — get murdered in the seemingly safe setting of Storrs, Conn.?

These are questions without answers.

The violence of the football field is the stuff we can control, and Jazz was a master. Analogies between on-field violence and the outside world are often made, without regard to actual violence. And yet, in this instance, I have realized just how petty and fake that violence is. There are rules, whistles, referees.

Early Sunday morning, there were no such systems in place. My friend and teammate died at the hands of someone who clearly placed no value on life, and certainly did not consider the consequences of his actions.

Jasper Howard was a man of incredible character and work ethic. He likely would have risen to the rank of captain in seasons to come. I have no doubt that Jazz, while undersized, would have been an NFL-caliber player. He was soft-spoken when he had to be, but was a vocal leader on the field. He pushed, provoked and brought out the best in his teammates.

I am always grateful to have been a part of UConn football, but I am — without a doubt — a better man for having shared the same field with Jazz.

I am not sure there are deeper lessons to be learned here. I don’t want to live in a world where one of my friends has to die for me or anyone else to value life. But here I am, reflecting more and more, valuing my own life and my own situation in a way I never did before Jazz passed.

I wish that society allowed us more opportunities to stop and reflect, but it doesn’t. All I can do is lead my life, with my new lease on it, the way that Jazz did — with honor, integrity and a relentless work ethic.

Dear Deron….

// February 11th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Uncategorized

deron-williams

Dear Deron Williams,

So it comes down to you, Rondo, Rose, Paul, and Westbrook for the title of best point guard today.

First Kidd vacated the title, then Nash. Now it’s comes down to you and those four other guys. You’ll have to forgive me Deron, but due to a lack of respect, I am not going to start with you.

I am going to start with Westbrook.

Would Kevin Durant leave Oklahoma City? Would he give up the chance to have an explosive scorer, who can still get him the ball, running with him? Would he, for one second, consider trading Westbrook’s absurd athletic ability? Or his selective selfish streak?

The answer is no.

Then there’s Rondo. Rondo somehow made a veteran starting five, with three potential hall of famers, defer to him. He has an old school mean streak that makes him a natural leader. Like Isaiah Thomas, only when he was playing basketball though. I’m in no way, shape or form, commenting on, or condoning Isaiah’s personal life.

Want to hear a story Deron? One fine summer day John Stockton seduced Bo Jackson at a petting zoo. Stockton’s short shorts were too much for Bo to know what to do and they ended up making a baby. A freakishly talented, mean spirited, basket ball playing baby. That baby’s name was Rajon Rondo.

Why don’t you ask any of his teammates, the kind of teammates who have championship rings, if they would leave Boston while Rondo was running point.

The answer would be no.

Your former running mate chose Derrick Rose over you Deron. Not only that but Carlos has been just as good if not better since the split. Normally, when you leave an elite point guard, your offense suffers. Since Boozer has been healthy, he has averaged nearly 20 points and over 10 rebounds a game. For a team that has won 35 games.

That’s a few more than you isn’t it?

Boozer, the second best player on your Jazz team, decided to join Derrick Rose. And so did Ronnie Brewer. These men were asked who they wanted to follow.

And the answer was, not you. The answer was Derrick Rose.

Chris Paul has everyone in the league wanting him on their team. He has a little of Rondo’s mean streak, a little of Rose’s ability to score, and a charisma that no one else on this list can match. But Paul has been stuck on a team that is in a constant state of transition, while trying to battle back from injuries.

If you gave Paul the same players, the same bad players even, for three years, and I guarantee he can make a winner out of em. He is like Peyton Manning.

You ask everyone in the NBA who they would love to play with, and the answer is Chris Paul. Not you.

Deron, you are an extremely talented basketball player. But you are not, nor will you ever be, the best at your position. You won’t be the fastest. You won’t be the one who scores the most, or racks up the most assists. You will be an afterthought and, I wish that you weren’t the one who chased Jerry Sloan.

But you were, weren’t you?

So what if that’s your legacy Deron? You broke Jerry Sloan.

Jerry Sloane is old school. He reminds me of running suicides in a stuffy gym. He reminds me of my father. And if there is one thing I know, it’s that you always pay for rising up against your father.

You may have showed that you were in charge out there in Utah. But you also showed that class, dignity, and integrity have no place running your basketball team.

Bravo Deron, Bravo.

Sincerely,

Disappointed

Remembering Jazz

// October 20th, 2009 // 5 Comments » // Uncategorized


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to a Monday night football game. In the stands, I sat with my former teammates, joking and laughing.

UConn’s star cornerback, Jasper “Jazz” Howard, sat next to me. While Jazz and I were hardly best friends, we were teammates, on the same defensive unit, who shared many laughs and, of course, trying moments together.

“How are the guys doing?” I asked Jazz that night.

“Young, man,” he replied in a throaty, soft-spoken voice, which sounded strained but was always at ease. “Real young. But, you know, we still gonna bang.” (A smile crept across his face as he said this.)

Fast-forward to a homecoming game this past weekend, where I selfishly explored my own emotions on being at a place where, for five years, I was very much on the inside, metaphorically and physically. Inside the locker room, inside the huddles, inside the football mentality.

On Saturday, I returned to my home stadium, for the first time, and was very much on the outside. Outside the lines, outside the players’ box, outside the locker room.

After the game, I got to join my teammates, my brothers, in the fight song. I made my rounds, slapping hands, hugging and smiling, exchanging the typical locker-room jabs. I went over to Jazz, congratulated him on his excellent game (an interception, forced fumble and about 13 tackles). Laughing, he told me I was almost as skinny as he was, and I reminded him that he was still about 1000 times the athlete I’d ever be.

The entire time I was there, I was thinking, “Man, this is awful.” I am not yet at a place where I can enjoy watching the game from which I am less than a year removed. I was emotional about the smells, and on  my long drive home, I had a lot of time to reflect on how much I missed playing, how important it was to me — things that in less than 24 hours would suddenly seem so much less significant.

I left that locker room. I came back to Boston. I went to sleep.

I woke up, and everything had changed.

The text messages said it all:

“Call me, we need to talk”

“Jazz is dead”

“S— went down last night”

I look back at that moment, from my Monday morning perspective, and I am embarrassed. A lot changed from Saturday afternoon’s pettiness to Monday’s deeper meaning. All my complaints about being done playing football didn’t matter. My teammate and friend had lost his life, leaving behind a family, a girlfriend, a daughter on the way.

Instead of enjoying the fruits of homecoming, remembering the good days, I am trying to make sense of something that is senseless.

How does a kid who makes it out of Miami — leaving the violence of his hometown by his own reckoning — get murdered in the seemingly safe setting of Storrs, Conn.?

These are questions without answers.

The violence of the football field is the stuff we can control, and Jazz was a master. Analogies between on-field violence and the outside world are often made, without regard to actual violence. And yet, in this instance, I have realized just how petty and fake that violence is. There are rules, whistles, referees.

Early Sunday morning, there were no such systems in place. My friend and teammate died at the hands of someone who clearly placed no value on life, and certainly did not consider the consequences of his actions.

Jasper Howard was a man of incredible character and work ethic. He likely would have risen to the rank of captain in seasons to come. I have no doubt that Jazz, while undersized, would have been an NFL-caliber player. He was soft-spoken when he had to be, but was a vocal leader on the field. He pushed, provoked and brought out the best in his teammates.

I am always grateful to have been a part of UConn football, but I am — without a doubt — a better man for having shared the same field with Jazz.

I am not sure there are deeper lessons to be learned here. I don’t want to live in a world where one of my friends has to die for me or anyone else to value life. But here I am, reflecting more and more, valuing my own life and my own situation in a way I never did before Jazz passed.

I wish that society allowed us more opportunities to stop and reflect, but it doesn’t. All I can do is lead my life, with my new lease on it, the way that Jazz did — with honor, integrity and a relentless work ethic.

Jazz

// October 19th, 2009 // No Comments » // Minnesota, Uncategorized

 

A Heavy Heart

// October 18th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Uconn, Uncategorized

After a homecoming full of excitement and nostalgia for me, I woke up this morning to several text messages which delivered some awful news.  UConn star cornerback, and all around outstanding individual, Jasper Howard passed away.  While details are still filtering in, it is here where I will take a step back from any and all reporting.  Here is where I draw the line on my responsibility to readers and that to my friends, teammates, and br0thers.

Jazz was a great teammate, always an inspiration on and off the field, and was one hell of an athlete.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, as should all of yours.  Keep him in your thoughts.  This is a tough day for UConn football.