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‘Be 22% better’: Utah football team remembers the life of slain player Aaron Lowe at candlelight vigil

Lowe’s death came just nine months after the passing of Utes football player Ty Jordan.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah football team mourns the loss of fellow student-athlete Aaron Lowe during a candlelight vigil at the A Ray Olpin Student Union southwest lawn, Sept. 29, 2021.

Dressed in black, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes marched somberly across campus Wednesday evening.

Just days after Utah sophomore cornerback Aaron Lowe was shot and killed at a Sugar House party, hundreds of people gathered outside the university’s student union building to hold a candlelight vigil in honor of Lowe’s life.

“We should all be grateful for the time we had with him,” Whittingham said.

One by one, the Utes — illuminated by small lightbulbs hung between the Honeylocust trees — shared memories of Lowe, the fallen cornerback who wore No. 22.

Their message to everyone in attendance: “Be 22% better.”

“No matter what it is — school, work, sports, family,” Utah freshman quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson said. “Live life to the fullest because you never know when your time is coming, or when the person next to you’s time is coming. So love on each other.”

Lowe, 21, was shot and killed at a party in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Police say they have some “potential promising leads,” but no one has been arrested nor has a suspect been named. A woman was also critically injured in the shooting.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah football team walks together on campus to the A Ray Olpin Student Union southwest lawn to remember and honor the life of fellow student-athlete Aaron Lowe during a candlelight vigil, Sept. 29, 2021.

Whittingham called Lowe’s death a “senseless loss”.

“We can get through this together, for him,” Utah athletics director Mark Harlan said.

Lowe’s teammates mentioned how his smile lit up a room. They talked about his selflessness. They talked about his work ethic, resilience and positivity.

The block U on the hill was lit as speakers shared their memories of Lowe.

Cornerback LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson thanked Whittingham for recruiting Lowe because if the coach hadn’t, he would never have gotten to know Lowe.

“I just want you guys to know Aaron’s at peace,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “Aaron can’t feel any more pain. He’s not sad, he’s not angry. He’s at peace.”

Pleasant-Johnson also had a message to all the athletes that play for the U: “Sports, continue to stay focused. Use this to drive you guys.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan addresses hundreds of athletes, students, and professors who packed the University of Utah's Student Union southwest lawn to remember and honor the life of student-athlete Aaron Lowe during a candlelight vigil, Sept. 29, 2021.

At least two small memorials have sprung up to remember Lowe. One of them is at the location where Lowe was killed, and features flowers and messages written in chalk on the sidewalk that say, “Love you family” and “rest in peace.”

The other is right outside the doors of Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center and features balloons that display the number 22 along with flowers and handwritten notes.

Lowe’s sudden death came just nine months after the passing of Ty Jordan, who was killed by an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen on Christmas night.

Celebrating Jordan’s life and legacy had been a key part of Utah’s football season this year. The university started a scholarship in Jordan’s honor, and Lowe was its first recipient. Before kickoff of the rivalry game between BYU and Utah, Jordan’s memory was honored by former Ute Samson Nacua ran onto the field with a flag that read “LLTJ,” which means “Long Live Ty Jordan.” Nacua then presented the flag to Lowe, who chose to jersey wear No. 22 in Jordan’s honor this season.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah football team head coach Kyle Whittingham mourns the loss of student-athlete Aaron Lowe during a candlelight vigil at the A Ray Olpin Student Union southwest lawn, Sept. 29, 2021.

Most of all, the message at Lowe’s vigil was one of love. Players reminded those in attendance to express the love they have for those that matter to them whenever they could.

“If you see somebody hurting, go tell them that you love them, give them a hug, all of that stuff because that’s what Aaron would do,” Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III said before taking a few seconds to compose himself.

After the vigil was formally over, the football team gathered in a circle and heard from a couple more teammates. One player’s message was if the team continued to work hard in Lowe’s memory, the Utes could be holding a trophy at the end of the season.

Before they dispersed for the evening, they clapped and yelled in unison.

“A-Lowe on three,” they said. “1-2-3, A-Lowe!”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah football team mourns the loss of fellow student-athlete Aaron Lowe during a candlelight vigil at the A Ray Olpin Student Union southwest lawn, Sept. 29, 2021.

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