UConn prepares for Howard's funeral

Updated: October 25, 2009, 11:23 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- A University of Connecticut football player who was fatally stabbed outside a campus dance was looking forward to being a father and wanted to a part of his daughter's life, the grandfather of the unborn child said Sunday.

Family and friends of Jasper Howard filed through a small South Florida mortuary Sunday to pay their respects to the 20-year-old cornerback from Miami. 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," Nadal said outside the viewing for Howard, who was killed during an altercation on the campus in Storrs, Conn., early on Oct 18.

No one has been charged in Howard's death. Police have made just one arrest. Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford, faces charges of breach of peace and interfering with police but is not charged with the stabbing. 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. UConn played Saturday, losing to No. 22 West Virginia 28-24 in an emotionally charged game.

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. 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."

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.

"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."

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 will 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."

The state police dive team spent Saturday at Swan Lake, near the entrance of the UConn campus. Authorities would not say what, if anything, was recovered.

Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance referred questions to the UConn police, who declined to comment.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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