Sunday, October 18, 2009

This one's for Darius Butler

A rookie's first career interception should be one of those moments he remembers forever.

"It's like throwing your first touchdown pass or throwing your first touchdown," Darius Butler said from in front of his locker after Sunday's 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans.

But it only had been a couple of hours since Butler has intercepted his first career pass, a pick of an underthrown Kerry Collins pass in the second quarter, and it already was a blur.

"I think I might have slid or dived or something," he said.

Butler had more on his mind than football. He'd lost a friend and a former teammate early Sunday morning to a senseless stabbing on the campus of the University of Connecticut shortly after midnight. Jasper Howard, a 20-year-old junior cornerback from the Miami area, like Butler, was stabbed during an altercation outside a party right in the middle of campus. A fire alarm was pulled during a dance, and a fight began as people began to trickle out of the building. UConn coach Randy Edsall had to visit a local emergency room around 4 a.m. to identify the body and to break the news to Howard's parents.

"It's a huge tragedy and definitely a shock for something like that to happen on the campus," Butler said. "My thoughts and prayers are definitely out to his family and our UConn family, also."

Howard started all 13 of the Huskies' games last season opposite Butler at cornerback, and the two certainly had developed a friendship. Phone calls and text messages began trickling in for Butler this morning.

"It was shocking, obviously," Butler said. "Some people didn't want to tell me before my game, but I found out. It was tough. ... It's a tough situation. Everything hasn't really hit me yet. It's a horrible tragedy, and it's a big loss."

It was fitting, in a way, that Butler intercepted his first career pass just hours after learning the terrible news about his friend. Brandon McGowan hit Collins as he was throwing, and Butler swooped in to catch the underthrown pass before wide receiver Nate Washington could get himself turned around.

The aftermath of the interception, of course, wasn't the only time Butler let his thoughts drift to the friend he'd lost hours earlier.

"I'm out there obviously focused on the game," Butler said, "but at the same time, thinking about what happened to him and his future being taken away from him."

No comments: