INDIANAPOLIS—Reality can hit quickly, especially for a rookie.
Donald Brown found that out Sunday, when his solid first season got hit with its first bit of adversity when a drive to the turf left him with a sprained shoulder.
That's the easiest challenge of this week. The hard part came Monday, when a trip to the east coast brought a dose of real life that digs deeper than a bit of shoulder pain.
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"You don't want to be there," said Brown, but there he was at the New Birth Baptist Church in Storrs, Conn., with family, teammates and friends of Jasper Howard.
"It's not the way things are supposed to be," said Brown of the funeral for his teammate, who was stabbed to death on October 18th on campus. "Parents aren't supposed to bury their children."
"It's a shame."
Brown was on the bye week when Howard fell victim to an attack outside of a party at the UConn student union. He along with another victim were stabbed, but Howard's was in the abdomen and was much more serious. He was taken to one hospital and then transferred to another before he died.
"You just think how could somebody possibly do that to someone," said Brown of the murder.
Its been a question that has rattled through the head of the rookie over the past week, as he tries to deal with the tragedy along with the rest of the UConn school and football program, providing a humbling dose of real life in a six months filled with positivity for Brown.
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"You reflect and you realize how precious life is and you never know when you're time is up," said Brown of what the murder has made him feel. "I can happen to anybody, you have to make the most of everything and appreciate the ones that love you and that you love the most."
Many around the school and even the Big East conference have shown their appreciation and respect for Howard in tributes over the past week. West Virginia had various signs in honor of Howard at their game against UConn last Saturday, and the crowd gave the Huskies a standing ovation as they entered the field for the first time.
"I didn't get to watch the game, but I heard they honored him," said Brown of the crowd at West Virginia. "Everybody's still in shock about it, but being down at the funeral, the turnout that was there, that was a good thing."
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Even better for friends like Brown has been the progress made in trying to find the perpetrators in the crime. 20-year-old Hakim Muhammad, 21-year-old Jamal Todd, and 21-year-old John William Lomax III have been arrested in connection with the a role in the stabbings by UConn police.
"They think they've got a pretty good lead on everything, so people are happy that justice is being served," said Brown of the breaks in the case.