I wish I had known Garrett Uekman better. I do remember that Friday night, when Garrett was a young star for the Rockets, he made a couple of huge plays. I got the highlights back about 9 pm, and spent the next 45 minutes calling all my Catholic high connections in an attempt to find out how his last name was pronounced. I don't know what I went with but " Youk-man" is probably a possibility.
Garrett was on his way to becoming a great college player, when he died suddenly due to an enlarged heart. We lost Garrett a day after he helped the Hogs beat Mississippi St. at his home stadium, War Memorial stadium. Garrett was just 19 years old.
Thanks to his family and friends, a lot more people know about Garrett and his heartbreaking story. The first Garrett Uekman foundation 7 on 7 tourney was a big success . I wish I could name all the volunteers. I do know that Chris Monroe handled the twitter updates and Michelle Miller sent updates via email . Everywhere I looked Friday at War Memorial, there were people in red shirts , reminders of Garrett. His high school coaches, relatives and friends. Garrett had some great friends.
It was Garrett's buddies who came up with the idea for a 7 on 7 tourney at Garrett's home stadium. They had four goals heading into this event. They wanted to raise money for the foundation, support heart disease research, continue Garrett's legacy, and put on a great event. Mission accomplished.
What made this tourney unique is that it featured kids from 5th to 12th grade. 7 on 7 tourneys are usually reserved for high school teams. Garrett would have loved our first highlight from Friday's action. A kid ,with a tight end build from Holy Souls, worked his way into the middle of the field. As the ball was thrown, three defenders converged on this wabbit and bang !!! He got hit just as the ball arrived, but held onto the ball. I didn't see him as a junior high player, but I was thinking, that's the way a young Garrett Uekman played.
Garrett's mom , Michelle, put it best when she said " It's hard to give up on Garrett's hopes and dreams and what he hoped to accomplish, but this is a step in the right direction, channeling that into something positive." She went on to say that Garrett would be smiling down, seeing these young players learn 7 on 7, and knowing that his friends wanted to keep his memory alive.
The challenge now is to make the second annual Garrett Uekman foundation 7 on 7 Tourney bigger and better. One thing we plan to do at Channel 7 is provide each player with a Garrett Uekman DVD. Young players who never saw Garrett play will see how Garrett approached life and football.
I learned Friday that Garrett approached everything football, basketball, school, fishing.. I could go on and on.... at full speed. I look forward to learning more about GU88 at next year's tourney.
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