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‘It could have been anybody’s son’

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The first thought that raced through Renee Dillon’s mind when her son, Brandon, made a pre-dawn phone call last Sunday to deliver the news that his Connecticut teammate, Jasper Howard, was stabbed to death?
“All I could say was, ‘Oh, my God,’” Dillon said. “It could have been anybody’s son. It could have been my kid.”
The Huskies escaped reality for three hours Saturday by playing a football game against West Virginia, but they were surrounded by reminders that Howard was missing.
Renee Dillon collects players’ gloves after every home game and hands them out to the young boys seeking autographs. Last week, she offered a “game-winning glove” to whoever could guess the hero’s number.
Now, she wishes she’d never given them away.
The glove belonged to Jasper Howard.
“I know how important those gloves are – I keep a pair on my mantel,” she said. “They sweat in these gloves. When you put them on, you feel what they feel. An energy comes out of those gloves.”
Dillon was wary of wearing her Connecticut colors at Mountaineer Field, and waited until she was inside the stadium to do so. To their surprise, West Virginia fans couldn’t have been more gracious or respectful.
“The sportsmanship and love and concern that they showed for our team, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that in sport,” Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. “My hat is off to them. Those were a bunch of class fans, and this is a classy staff and athletic administration.”
That didn’t make the 28-24 defeat any easier for the Huskies, who saw their last-minute comeback hopes end with a Cody Endres interception.
“At the end of the game, everything came out,” tailback Andre Dixon said. “Once you don’t get that win and you feel like you really were out here playing for him and you come up a little bit short, you feel like you let him down. At the same time, we definitely gave the effort that would be making him smile down on us.”
Dixon, however, knows the reality that awaits Monday, when Howard will be buried in his hometown of Miami.
“This is something that’s never going to go away,” Dixon said. “Monday is going to be like (last) Sunday all over again. Meeting up with his family and people from his area, Monday is going to be a crazy and emotional day for the UConn family and Jasper’s family.”

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