Arkansas mourns death of Garrett Uekman

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
10:35
AM ET
Arkansas lost a member of its football family Sunday when redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman was pronounced dead at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

The cause of death wasn't immediately known, but Uekman, 19, was found unconscious and unresponsive in his dorm room at approximately 11:15 a.m. Sunday. He was last seen playing video games by a roommate approximately an hour earlier.

“Garrett’s loss is a terrible shock for the University of Arkansas and the Razorback program,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “Our sincere condolences go out to his family and to all of those who knew him. He will be missed by many friends, teammates and others throughout campus. The well-being of our student-athletes is at the very core of our mission and when a tragedy like this happens it is a tremendous loss to the entire campus community. We will work with various campus services to provide support for the Uekman family, our student-athletes, coaches and staff during this difficult time.”

Uekman hadn't received much publicity this season and hadn't recorded any stats as a backup tight end, but that didn't take away from the person he was around those who knew him -- if only briefly.

The consensus was that he was legitimately a genuine person who found it hard not to smile. Coming from Little Rock, Ark., Uekman was one of those instate kids who always dreamed of playing for Arkansas, and while his high school numbers were impressive, he wasn't a boaster or a bragger.

“Garrett Uekman was a special member of our family, and we are all saddened by his passing,” coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement. “His loss is a terrible shock, and it makes you realize how precious life is. Garrett was a great teammate and loved being a Razorback. My sympathies are with his entire family during this incredibly trying time, and I share in their grief. Our team will honor and show our respect to Garrett.”

Now, the Razorbacks must find a way to keep their emotions in check this week as they prepare for a huge game against LSU Friday. Uekman's coaches and teammates will carry heavy hearts into the game and could use their grief as a rallying point, but this is a time in which it's OK to think of football as secondary.

For all the hype and excitement Friday's game has received and will receive in the coming days, we must remember that when the clock hits 0:00, a game will have just ended and nothing more. There are things much more important in this world than the battle of top-three opponents.

Uekman's passing brings that reality to light.

Friday will no doubt be filled with both happiness and sorrow on both sidelines and within both fan bases. There might be bitterness felt between these two teams and the fans that support them, but there is also a mutual respect that comes with all of this.

Swords should momentarily be put down before the game between both sides when they meet in Baton Rouge, La., as respect is paid to Uekman and his family.

The game will of course bring out the enormous emotions that come with such a big game, as it should, but that time will come. The time to squabble about who is the best and where a team should be ranked will come after Friday's game, as well.

Now is the time for thoughts and prayers to go out to Uekman, his family and the Arkansas family. And now is the time to hold those who you love just a little closer and a little tighter.

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