Josh Brent and Jerry Brown met in college, forming a close, unshakeable bond. Having realized his NFL dream, Brent was trying to help his roommate do the same.
But Brent wasn't starting on Dallas' defensive line when the Cowboys kicked off in Cincinnati today. He was in jail, accused of driving drunk and causing a fatal accident in the Dallas suburb of Irving.
And Brown, who'd just landed a spot on the Cowboys' practice squad, wasn't watching the Cowboys' 20-19 victory over the Bengals. He was the 25-year-old passenger in Brent's car, which struck a curb and flipped in the pre-dawn hours Saturday (local time).
Brown, an expectant father, had promised his family that he would play professional football full-time, his grandmother said.
"He lived for football," Theresa Clark, 63, of St. Louis, told The Associated Press today. "He loved it with all his heart."
Brent, a 6-foot-5-inch, 320-pound nose guard, was arrested at the scene of the accident on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a charge upped to intoxication manslaughter after Brown died.
Attorney George Milner complained that Brent's US$500,000 bond was set "16 times higher than it would have been for anybody that doesn't play for the Dallas Cowboys." He said the bond amount was more than the Cowboys authorised him to post and wasn't sure when his client would be released.
The two athletes' friendship, which blossomed during their three seasons at the University of Illinois, was obvious to those who knew them.
"You can't get any tighter than those two," Milner said, crossing his index and middle fingers. "It was the closest family he had was Jerry Brown."
The circumstances surrounding Brown's death didn't change his family's view of their relationship, either.
"I'm quite sure that Jerry thought the world of him and respected that young man," Clark said of Brent.
According to a probable cause affidavit by Irving police, officers said they detected "a moderate odour of alcohol" from Brent's breath and that he "admitted to consuming alcohol at a club," but wouldn't identify which one. Police said Brent gave a blood sample at the hospital.
Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson of Champaign, Illinois, confirmed Brown's final Facebook post from November 29, in which he wrote that he was expecting a child and "how the fast life isn't as fun as it use to be after living it for so long."
"She will be here in two more months," Jackson said of Brown's baby daughter. "She is going to be well loved. I have scrapbooks and everything to show her what type of father she had."
Clark saw Brown about four or five months ago, but spoke with him frequently via Facebook.
"I have 20 grandchildren and Jerry is the oldest," Clark said. "They all looked up to him. They praised him. They were all really upset and crying. They are going to miss their big cousin. He was one in a million."
The accident happened hours before Brent was to be on a team flight to Cincinnati. Before thegame, the Bengals held a moment of silence before the national anthem. Most Cowboys bowed their heads, and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and several other players had their hands over their hearts.
On Fox's NFL Sunday pregame show, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team had focused on Brown's death in the "last few hours." He didn't mention Brent.
"First of all we all know, but we remind ourselves that there is something more important than football, and this is life, and certainly the lost life of Jerry," Jones said. "On the other hand, they know the best way they can honor Jerry, because he was such a hard worker, so conscientious and enthusiastic about his career."
It marked the second straight week the NFL found itself dealing with a tragedy right before gameday.
Last Saturday, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before killing himself in front of his coach and general manager. The 25-year-old Belcher shot himself in the parking lot at the team's practice complex at Arrowhead Stadium.
In 2009, Brent pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years of probation, according to court records.
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