Pro football

Friends grieve NFL's latest tragedy

2012-12-09T21:30:00Z 2012-12-09T22:35:11Z Friends grieve NFL's latest tragedyBy Courtney Linehan courtney.linehan@nwi.com; (219) 933-3367 nwitimes.com

Kyle Yelton remembers the hot summer weekend back in college when he and three friends stopped at his parents' house in Chesterton on the way back from a road trip to Ohio.

"We stopped to eat and go fishing in my backyard," Yelton recalled over the weekend. "This is Indiana. When you've got a guy from St. Louis and two from Ohio in town, you take them fishing."

Jerry Brown, the guy from St. Louis and Yelton's roommate that summer, never stopped smiling.

Yelton, a punter for the Illini, and his former college football teammates spent much of the weekend reminiscing on happier days as they shared news about the double tragedy in which Brown, a former Colts player now on the Cowboys' practice squad, died early Saturday when teammate Josh Brent allegedly flipped his Mercedes after hitting a curb in a Dallas suburb.

Brent, a Cowboys nose tackle, was arrested at the scene and later charged with intoxication manslaughter after Brown was transported to a hospital and declared dead.

He was swarmed by reporters outside the jail Sunday after being released on $500,000 bond.

"Jerry Brown was my very best friend, and I'm just trying to deal with his death right now," Brent said.

Brown was a quiet kid with a perpetual grin. He played defensive end at Illinois for two seasons before failing to meet the team's minimum academic requirements and being dismissed.

He played in the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League before getting picked up by the Colts in the fall.

"Today has been a blessed day for me," he posted on his Facebook profile Oct. 9, the day he was moved to the active roster. "First official NFL game against the Jets this Sunday. The Journey starts NOW!!"

“He was a good teammate that was well liked by all," Colts GM Ryan Grigson, a Highland native, said in a press release. "Today’s tragic news is just another reminder of how fragile life is and how everyday given is a gift."

Brent invited Brown to stay with him when the former teammates were reunited in Dallas. Brent had his own share of trouble in college, playing three seasons for Illinois before missing the fourth after pleading guilty to a DUI in 2009.

Brent had been with the Cowboys since 2010.

Teammates past and present struggled with the news all weekend, grieving one friend's death but not blaming the other.

"Your heart gets even sicker as more and more details come out," Yelton said. "They talk about Josh trying to pull Jerry out of the car as it was on fire — it's sickening.

"Those guys were down in the trenches together every day for two years at Illinois. The opportunity to play with one of your college teammates in the pros is so rare. It's what you dream about."

Yelton said he last spoke with Brown on Brown's 25th birthday, Oct. 20, and the two made plans to meet in Indianapolis if Brown remained with the Colts.

"Where Jerry ended up — oh yeah, he was happy," Yelton said. "He knew he had to put in the time. He knew he wasn't going to knock the doors down; he had to work his way up. And that's what he did."

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