|Updated: 11/21/2011 10:36 am
||Published: 11/21/2011 9:08 am
Losing a friend and teammate is far greater than any loss that comes on a field or court.
You spend nearly every minute with your teammates, working out, eating meals, traveling to and from games, so when they're removed from your life it leaves an awful void.
Prior to Little Rock, I spent 3 1/2 years at the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Mississippi, covering Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Last season, one of the Bulldogs, Nick Bell, lost his battle with cancer.
I watched a teary eyed Dan Mullen address the media following the death of his 20-year old defensive end. It was eerily similar to the way Bobby Petrino struggled through his statement Sunday night talking about Garrett Uekman.
Bell's death was sudden, unexpected, and terrible beyond words, but the reaction is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
If you've been to Starkville, there's a grassy area behind the stadium know as "The Junction." On the night of Bell's passing, students and fans showed up there without any formal plans. At exactly 7:36 PM (Bell wore #36 at MSU) everyone in attendance began to ring a cowbell. One person started it, and everyone just followed the lead.
Many people have an opinion of Mississippi State's traditional "noise-makers," but on that night there couldn't have been a more beautiful or fitting tribute, to a fallen friend, and teammate.
The imagine of State fans ringing in unison will stick with me forever. You may have seen it too, ESPN used the video in a feature that ran during College GameDay.
The tributes didn't stop there. Bulldog players took turns wearing Bell's #36 jersey for the remainder of the season, and every member of the team wore a commemorative patch with Bell's name and number. The 36-yard lines at Scott Field are still blacked out in Bell's honor.
A little over a year since Bell's passing, and he's still being remembered on the Starkville campus. The school recently hosted the Nick Bell 3.6 Mile Run, with the proceeds going to the Nick Bell Mentoring Memorial Foundation.
As the Razorbacks prepare for the daunting task of shifting their focus back to football, the players will pay tribute to Garrett Uekman in their own ways. Some will wear #88 on their uniforms, others may just say a silent prayer before taking the field Friday in Baton Rouge.
Uekman's presence will no longer be in the locker room or in the huddle, but just like Nick Bell, his memory will never be forgotten.