Cornerback Jasper Howard called his mom Saturday night after Connecticut beat Louisville, and he was given the game-winning ball. He was thrilled.
Just hours later, the phone rang again. This time it was UConn football coach Randy Edsall notifying her that her son had been stabbed. He was pronounced dead early Sunday. “He was a good child, a wonderful, sweet, loving child,” Joangela Howard told CNN affiliate WSVN. “I just hope whoever did it turns himself in. [Jasper] didn’t deserve this.” Howard, a 20-year-old cornerback who started in every game for the team last season, was killed following a sponsored student dance on campus, authorities said. The junior from Miami, Florida, was a soon-to-be dad, said UConn football coach Randy Edsall. During the dance at the university’s student center, a fire alarm was pulled at about 12:26 a.m., campus police Maj. Ron Blicher told reporters. More than 300 people who were attending the dance left the building and spilled out into the street. A fight broke out between two groups of people, and Howard and an unidentified person were stabbed, police said. The incident happened at 12:33 a.m. Howard and the other victim were taken to a local hospital. Howard was then airlifted by helicopter to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, where he later died from his injuries, police said. The second victim was treated and released. Howard’s family was in Florida, so Edsall was called in to identify Howard’s body. “There’s nothing in my job description that says you have to identify bodies and you have to make phone calls to the parents, but that’s part of the job,” he told reporters Sunday. “I hope I never have to go through what I had to go through today.” University police and the Connecticut State Police are investigating the incident. They don’t have a suspect, but they “don’t believe it was a random act,” Blicher said. Both students and nonstudents were in the area at the time. Authorities are investigating whether alcohol was involved and what the altercation was about, he said. Anyone with information is asked to contact UConn police. Howard was a cornerback for the Huskies, who are 4-2 this season. The team’s Web site says he started in every game last year and led the Big East conference in punt returns. On Saturday, the Huskies beat Louisville 38-25. Howard was awarded the game ball in that game, Edsall said. The team is scheduled to take on West Virginia on October 24. As a high school student, Howard was captain of the football team, according to his biography on the UConn site. Edsall called him a “great young man” and Connecticut team co-captain and punter Desi Cullen tearfully described Howard as a “brother” to all the players. “Hearing the news that he was a father breaks my heart. The idea that [the baby] will grow up without his father tears me apart, just to think about what it would be like for that young child.” Joangela Howard struggled through tears with the gripping reality that she would never talk to her son again. “After the game [yesterday] he called me and was very excited,” she said. “I talked to him for a while. I’m not going to see him or talk to him no more.”