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UConn tragedy hits home for UM's Bell

It's the type of early morning phone call no football coach ever wants to receive -- news that one of their guys is gone.

Corey Bell Corey Bell, the director of football operations at the University of Miami, got one of those calls early Sunday morning as news of the stabbing death of University of Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard began to spread. Bell, who coached Howard at Miami Edison High for two years, was stunned and saddened to learn of the tragedy.

"I'm real close to all my guys, but Jazz and I were real close," said Bell, who awoke at 6 a.m. to phone calls and text messages from Edison alumni.

"We spoke at least once every week. He's a great kid, coachable, dependable, real tough mentally and talented. He's like most of the kids from that area in Little Haiti. He had dreams of getting to the next level and making it and taking care of his mom and his sister."

Howard died early Sunday morning, hours after the team's victory 35-28 Saturday night against Louisville. The Hartford Courant reported the stabbing happened following the end of a school-sponsored dance at the university student union. It reported that an altercation occurred outside building after someone pulled a fire alarm.

Howard was reportedly one of two people stabbed at the center of campus. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he died. The second victim, who was not named, survived, and was treated and released from the hospital.

The newspaper reported that the suspect in the stabbings was still at large early Sunday. UConn president Michael Hogan told The Associated Press that the stabbing is a tragedy for the entire university community. He says state police are working with campus police.

"Jazz would have never been the type to get himself involved in trouble," Bell said. "On the contrary, he was the type of guy who wouldn't let his teammates get in trouble. He was smart and a great leader."

Howard was a first-team All-Dade defensive back at Edison in 2007, as well as a first team All-Dade track and field long jumper. Howard, who also played wide receiver in high school, had 27 catches for 604 yards and seven touchdowns and intercepted two passes to go along with 42 tackles his senior season. He chose UConn over North Carolina.

"I remember the last day I was Edison before I came to UM," Bell said. "All the kids were sad and upset with me. Jazz stood up and said 'We should be happy for coach. He always pushes for us to get the next level. We should be happy for him too.' I'll never forget that. That's the type of kid Jazz was."

Howard was credited with 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in UConn's victory Saturday over Louisville. He led the Big East in punt returns last season.

Bell said Howard was close friends with current UM offensive lineman Brandon Washington and Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor, who were his teammates at Edison.

"He was really starting to come into his own," Bell said of Howard. "A lot of kids who don't end up coming here need to get out of Miami to get away from the things in their neighborhood.

"You coach them up to do the right thing and make the right decisions when trouble starts. I know Jazz. He knew how much his family was depending on him. When you get a phone call like this, it just breaks your heart."

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