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"Wanted to Make His Mom Proud;" Jasper Howard, Slain UConn Football Player, Inspires Emotion

(AP Photo/Michael Switzer)
Photo: UConn players observe moment of silence of Jasper Howard Oct. 24, 2009.

MIAMI (CBS/AP) Family and friends, including teammates of slain University of Connecticut football player Jasper Howard, are gathering in his hometown of Miami for his funeral Monday.

PICTURES: Slain UConn Player Jasper Howard

The procession of events to remember the 20-year old Howard, a junior who was stabbed to death during a fight on the UConn campus Sunday Oct. 18, continued this weekend, on and off the field.

On Saturday, Howard's teammates paid tribute to the Miami native at Connecticut's game against West Virginia. Two UConn players carried his helmet and number-6 jersey before kickoff, and players from both teams wore stickers on their helmets during the game. Connecticut players also held hands and bowed their heads for a moment of silence in Howard's memory.

UConn lost the emotionally charged game, 28-24.

Howard, a rising star as a defensive cornerback at UConn, was looking forward to being a father and wanted to be a part of his daughter's life.

On Sunday, Howard's family and friends filed through a small South Florida mortuary Sunday to pay their respects at a viewing. Among them was David Nadal, the father of 18-year-old Daneisha Freeman, who is pregnant with Howard's child.

Howard was a "good kid" who would have been a wonderful father, Nadal said.

"I told him that no matter what, I understand he says he's going to be there 100 percent for her, that I'd be there for him, too, to help him out," said Nadal.

No one has been directly charged in Howard's death. Police have made one arrest in connection with the fight that followed a campus dance. Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford, faces charges of breach of peace and interfering with police but is not charged with the stabbing.

(Facebook Photo)
Photo: Jasper Howard and girlfriend Daneisha Freeman.
PICTURES: Slain UConn Player Jasper Howard

Police this weekend searched storm drains and a lake on campus near the area of the stabbing but wouldn't say what they were looking for.

At Sunday's viewing, Howard's dark blue casket was set up in a small, salmon-colored room filled with bright floral arraignments, including a large blue "6," Howard's jersey number. Howard was dressed in a light blue suit with blue and grey football gloves similar to those he wore on the field for the Huskies.

Two pictures of him, one signed by the University of Miami football team and the other signed by members of Clemson's football program, were also displayed.

"(Howard) was a kid that wanted to do the right thing, wanted to make the situation better. He was headed in that direction," said UM's director of football operations Corey Bell, who was also Howard's high school coach. "Wanted to make his mom proud."

"He was the model academic athlete," said Dwight Jackson, a funeral director at the mortuary and a mentor to Howard. "He was a great student in school. His personality was second to none. His athleticism was great, he was a very competitive and a very good athlete."

A steady stream of adults, sleeping babies, fidgeting children, family members and friends, trickled through the mortuary throughout the day. Many wore memorial T-shirts and buttons for Howard. Some left in tears, and some gathered around the casket to snap pictures of the slain player.

"Jazz was a great person," said Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor, Howard's former teammate at Miami Edison Senior High. "He lived a great life, was having a great career. It's just kind of tough because he was doing something with his life."

(Facebook Photo)
Photo: Jasper Howard.
PICTURES: Slain UConn Player Jasper Howard

Clemson earned a 40-37 overtime win against the Hurricanes on Saturday, and Chancellor stayed in Miami to attend Howard's viewing and funeral. He will be joined Monday by the UConn football players, who planned to travel together on a charter flight to Miami for the funeral.

UConn coach Randy Edsall said it is "going to be a difficult day for some of these young people."

"This is a lesson for them in life, that these are the things you have to deal with in life and (Monday) as Jazz is buried it brings a little closure to this," Edsall said during a conference call.

He was quick to add that Howard will remain in the team's thoughts every day.

"But it's time now for everybody to continue to move forward and really get back into what we have to do with our own everyday lives, and then ... remember Jazz in their own way."

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PICTURES: Slain UConn Player Jasper Howard

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  • Edecio Martinez

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