UConn fans show support for Howard
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- Football fans lined up three deep Saturday to applaud and shake hands as players walked from their buses into Rentschler Field for the UConn Huskies' first home game since the slaying of Jasper Howard.
All the players and many fans wore Howard's jersey number, 6, on T-shirts to honor the cornerback who was stabbed to death Oct. 18 outside a campus dance.
Greg Shettle, 43, of Glastonbury flew a homemade flag from his tailgate site with the initials "JH," the number 6 and the words "Always a Husky" on it.
He said he didn't mind standing in a drizzle to show the team that its fans share the loss.
"We're all here to support the team and to honor Jasper's memory," Shettle said. "It was a life taken too soon from everybody, and I think a lot of fans recognize that he was a bright young man with a tremendous personality, and we just all feel for him and his family and the team."
Every fan entering the stadium for the game against Rutgers received a card with Howard's number on it, which they held up during a moment of silence. The first 15,000 also received wristbands honoring Howard.
The school normally bans signs from the stadium but permitted fans to hold up signs in tribute to Howard.
One read "Play every play as if it is your last play ever."
Students each received a button with a "6" on it and eye-black stickers that are also being worn by the players -- one with Howard's number and the other with his initials.
UConn players wore a helmet sticker with Howard's initials on it, while Rutgers players wore a "6" on their helmets.
The marching band came onto the field wearing No. 6 jerseys and changed the "O" in the word UConn into a "6" during its pregame program.
The moment of silence was followed by fans chanting, "Jasper Howard."
Glen Hadley, 68, of Hebron painted Howard's numbers and initials on his face.
"What happened was so tragic and so senseless, and if we can't show a sense of community for a fellow human being, than I don't know," he said. "It's just a little thing we can do."
The Huskies ended up losing the game, 28-24, when one of Howard's best friends, Rutgers receiver Tim Brown, caught an 81-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left.
"I played for him," Brown said. "I dedicated that game to him."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press