TJ Carpenter: Razorbacks Make Transition From Playing With Uekman To Playing For Him

by TJ Carpenter  on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 2:00 pm  

Visitors to Arkansas' official athletic web site are greeted by a tribute to Garrett Uekman, who died Sunday at 19. (Photo by UA Media Relations)

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Losing a teammate is hard. Losing a friend is even harder. Losing a son is something no parent should ever have to endure. All those things were lost this weekend when Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman died at the age of 19.

Times like these make thinking and writing about football seem trivial. The third-ranked Razorback football team, ready to take on their toughest opponent to date, No. 1 LSU, is now faced with the crushing feeling of losing a teammate and not knowing whether or not the trudge to a college football championship is as important as they had previously thought.

The feeling around Razorback nation seems to be very similar. A day that should have been all about celebration, a day when the Razorbacks saw their highest ranking in the BCS ever, was instead a day of sadness.

A brief press conference was held Sunday evening. A shaken athletic director and head coach took the podium, struggling to read short pre-written statements, fighting back tears at every pause. For a day, no one in Arkansas cared about football. Coach Bobby Petrino and Athletic Director Jeff Long, who also took questions from assembled media, certainly weren't focused solely on football Sunday night. Uekman’s family wasn't.

The Razorbacks are now faced with a tough task: focus on football in the face of tragedy. Sports at its core is entertainment. But sports also inspires. It drives people to believe in something, to work together to attain a common goal.

Arkansas players are faced with making the transition from playing with Uekman to playing for Uekman.

On the day of the tragedy, offensive linemen Brey Cook posted a message to Facebook that read: "A team with something to play for can be dangerous. A team with someone to play for will be unstoppable." That message was being posted and reposted to Twitter on Monday by fans and teammates.

CBS will televise Arkansas-LSU at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Arkansas has much to play for, but more importantly they have someone to play for. We’re told Uekman’s values and character touched the lives of many people. His teammates saw it and were influenced by it on a daily basis.

Uekman’s parents said in a statement released by the university that he was "living his dream" playing for the Razorbacks. Uekman understood the special nature of being a Razorback — being a part of something that inspires people. Win or lose, playing for this team in this state makes you a part of something no one can ever take away. It is a truly unique opportunity, one that Uekman would expect every single one of his teammates to take full advantage of.

Petrino said of Uekman, “He did everything right.”

Playing for Uekman means playing for who he was and what he represented. Win or lose, the players on that field representing the University of Arkansas get to live the dream.


TJ Carpenter is host of The TJ Carpenter Show on The Hog Sports Radio Network from 1-4pm (listen live at TJ Carpenter contributes to and

Find him on Facebook and Twitter/@tjcarpentershow.



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