Arkansas honors Uekman with candlelight vigil

Published 11:41 pm Monday, November 21, 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Garrett Uekman was remembered Monday night for his love for Arkansas, and those who knew him best said his impact on the university was far greater than the short time he spent there.

Several thousand mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil in Bud Walton Arena to remember Uekman, a redshirt freshman tight end who died suddenly on Sunday.

Uekman’s picture remained on the arena’s videoboard throughout the ceremony, and those in attendance wore stickers that had black ribbons wrapped in red with a white “88” on them, in honor of Uekman’s number.

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“This is a sad day for the Razorback family,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “And a tragedy that reminds us just how precious life is.

“Moments like this make you realize just how insignificant wins and losses can be and how important the people around you are. Garrett was important to all of us.”

Uekman’s parents, Danny and Michelle, and his sister, Meagan, led the football team into the arena and were followed by Petrino and his family. Several players wiped tears away and held their heads down as they took their seats.

Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart was among a group of speakers that included Razorbacks sophomore Austin Tate, who called Uekman his “best friend” and a “brother.” The ceremony ended with the approximately 2,500 candles providing light in the darkened arena.

“I speak for the whole team when I say Garrett Uekman will always be a part of us,” Tate said.

Uekman, 19, was last seen playing video games Sunday morning and was found unresponsive in his dorm room an hour later. University police said they won’t release the incident report until after the autopsy report is released.

The No. 3 Razorbacks (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) face No. 1 LSU (11-0, 7-0) in Baton Rouge on Friday.

“He would tell us to not be sitting around crying,” Tate said. “He would probably kick our butts and tell us we’re wasting our time and need to get ready for LSU.

“He loved being a part of this team and cherished every moment that he was here. I just wish I had a lifetime of knowing Garrett Uekman.”

LSU coach Les Miles expressed his condolences Monday afternoon and said he tried to call Petrino but was unable to get through. Uekman was recruited by the Tigers before signing with Arkansas.