UConn returns to practice

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut's football team got back to work Tuesday, holding their first practice since the stabbing death of player Jasper Howard over the weekend.

"It's definitely hard to move forward, with a loss like that," linebacker Lawrence Wilson said. "But as his mom and his parents said to us, Jasper would want us to win. So I think the team will practice hard for him."

Police said Howard, a junior cornerback, was fatally stabbed during a fight outside a university-sanctioned dance early Sunday. Nobody has been charged with the stabbing, and UConn police said Tuesday there were no new developments in the investigation.

Howard's stepfather, Henry Williams, said the family is confident that the killer will be brought to justice. Speaking to reporters, Williams also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and support the family has received from the Connecticut community.

"We have a lot of pain," Williams said. "We still have hurt, but we can go on now feeling a little better because a lot of our questions have been answered. The captain of the state police told me, 'The case will be solved,' and I believe him."

Funeral services were tentatively set for Monday in Florida and Edsall said the team will attend.

Williams said Howard, who was from Miami, loved UConn and considered the team his second family. He asked UConn's football players to take a moment to grieve, and then play the rest of the season for his son.

Howard's mother, Joanglia, did not speak, and had to leave the room during Williams' remarks when she was overcome with emotion.

She had visited players on Monday, Edsall said, hugging each of them. Howard's uncle, a former Miami police officer, advised them not to seek revenge.

"What they had to say to the kids at that time was what the kids needed to hear," Edsall said.

Students held a day of silence on Tuesday and the Black Student Association asked everyone on campus to wear dark clothing to indicate that the university is united in mourning.

Police asked for the public's help in gathering evidence, particularly from people who may have taken photos or videos of the fight. The violence broke out just after a fire alarm went off in a student union, forcing around 300 people to evacuate the building.

Hartford attorney Deron Freeman said he represents a man whose home has been searched in connection with the fight. The man, whom Freeman would not identify, and several others got into a fight "with about six" UConn football players early Sunday. Freeman said his client did not stab Howard but was present when Howard was mortally wounded.

Edsall said he's heard nothing to indicate members of his team were involved in a fight.

"When I hear fight, I usually think of people throwing fists," Edsall said. "I haven't got that information. Now young kids, could it be verbal jostling, yeah.

"I don't know of anybody that has substantiated [the fighting]. Now, I think anytime you probably get 300 people together sometimes there probably is going to be some verbal jostling going on."

One person has been charged in connection with the fight. Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford, was arraigned Monday on charges of interfering with an officer and breach of peace. But he has not been charged in Howard's death, and police haven't identified a suspect. According to a police report, Hood was pointed out to police on the scene by Brian Parker, a sophomore wide receiver who also was stabbed but suffered only minor injuries.

Hood is being represented by Deron Freeman's brother, Justin Freeman. Justin Freeman said his client was "at the wrong place at the wrong time," and did not even know a homicide had occurred.

Edsall said at least two other players were present and tried in vain to save Howard's life. He said he doesn't know if the two teammates will play this week.

"I'll honor whatever decision they want to make," he said.

Howard was a junior who had come to UConn to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown of Miami. He was the first in his family to go to college.

The stabbing came less than 12 hours after UConn's 38-25 homecoming victory over Louisville. Howard starred in the game, making 11 tackles and forcing a third-quarter fumble to help the Huskies maintain the lead.

UConn will wear a sticker with Howard's initials on its helmets for the rest of the season and will carry his helmet or jersey to away games, Edsall said. West Virginia players also will be wearing helmet stickers with Howard's number, 6, when they play the Huskies on Saturday.

There will be a moment of silence for Howard and the Connecticut and West Virginia teams plan to follow that by greeting each other on the field.

"This is all about Jasper Howard and honoring a fallen brother," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said Tuesday. "I am very proud of the West Virginia and Connecticut administrations for helping us make this happen to honor Jasper."