THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Rookie cornerback Butler plays with a heavy heart

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 19, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots cornerback Darius Butler talked to Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard not long after his good friend helped the Huskies beat Louisville, 38-25, Saturday.

Yesterday morning Butler received a text message that his former teammate was dead.

Howard was stabbed to death early yesterday morning following an on-campus dance.

Howard, a 20-year-old from Miami, was one of two people stabbed during a fight after a fire alarm was pulled during a school-sanctioned dance at the UConn Student Union just after 12:30 a.m., police said.

“It hasn’t really settled in yet, and it’s nothing I’m really ready to talk about yet,’’ Butler said. “Obviously, it’s tough to lose somebody that close to me.’’

Howard had a career-high 11 tackles and forced a fumble in the third quarter to help UConn seal the victory.

Following the game, Butler said Howard was “in good spirits.’’

“He had a pretty good game, so he was definitely in good spirits and it was a homecoming game, so it was huge,’’ Butler said.

Butler, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, ended his four-year career at UConn last season. He said he knew of Howard while in high school but they became friends in Storrs.

UConn coach Randy Edsall said Butler taught Howard the ropes while at the school. Those closest to Butler didn’t want to share the news about one of his closest friends before the Patriots played yesterday, but the text messages and phone calls began arriving early in the morning.

As Butler prepared for the Titans, he said Howard was in his thoughts.

“I was definitely focused on the game, but obviously, something that serious, it was in the back of my mind,’’ Butler said.

In the Patriots’ 59-0 victory, Butler grabbed the first interception of his career. His teammates immediately surrounded him to congratulate him, but the encouragement meant a little more to Butler under the circumstances.

“It just shows the type of character he has,’’ Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “He came out and played well.’’

As of last night, police did not have a suspect in custody.

“It is shocking,’’ Butler said. “It was a tough situation, especially on a college campus. You send your kid off to go to school and to get an education and then something like that happens. That’s terrible. It’s definitely a huge tragedy.’’

Material from the Associated Press were used in this report.

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