Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 11/23/11
Its the biggest game the Arkansas Razorbacks have played since 1969 when they took on No. 1 Texas. Not long after digesting turkey and trimmings, the No. 3 Hogs will travel to Baton Rouge to play No. 1 LSU on Friday in the second game of the century the Tigers have played this season. But the Razorbacks trip will be somber as one seat will remain empty on the bus. Redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman from Little Rock died on Sunday of an undiagnosed heart condition known as idiopathic cardiomyopathy. He was 19. Uekman was seen playing video games in his dorm room on Sunday morning. He was discovered unconscious and unresponsive an hour later, and was pronounced dead a few minutes after noon from one of the most common and deadly heart conditions. The word idiopathic means unknown, but the usual cause of this form of cardiac disease is a virus, often undetected, that could have been in the patients system for years. Most of the stories you hear of healthy people dying after a couple of sets of tennis are from idiopathic cardiomyopathy. In many instances, death is the first and only symptom. Those facts do not mitigate the shock and sorrow of losing a talented teenager. During a Monday night vigil held at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, 2,800 students, facility and family members (including the entire Razorback football team) lit candles as the Arkansas Inspirational Singers sang Amazing Grace. There were also moving tributes to Uekman, who was highly recruited out of Little Rock Catholic High School and chose Arkansas over LSU in 2010. Coach Bobby Petrino fought back tears, his voice cracking several times as he told the mourners, Its human nature to ask, Why? Why Garrett. Why now? Unfortunately we dont have the answer. So, instead lets focus on what we know, Petrino continued. And what we know is we are all better off having spent some time with Garrett. Garrett lived with passion, energy and enthusiasm. He helped bring joy to his teammates and to his coaches. He was driven to succeed in the classroom and on the field. He embodied everything you want to see in a true student athlete. An honor student, Uekman played in nine of the Razorbacks 11 games this season, but had yet to catch a pass. His best days as a player seemed to be ahead of him, but he had already had an impact on his teammates and friends. Garrett was the closest thing Ive ever had to a brother, fellow tight end Austin Tate said. We were together all the time. Choking up several times, Tate was supported on stage by quarterback Brian Buehner, kicker Zach Hocker, and offensive lineman Luke Charpentier who were Uekmans classmates as well as teammates. He would tell us to not sit around crying, Tate said. Hed probably kick our butts and tell us we were wasting our time and go get ready for LSU. He loved being a part of this team. He cherished it. How the team will respond to the loss the week of the biggest game in decades is as unanswerable as it is trivial. The crass old win one for the Gipper line is even more insensitive when the player lost is a friend or a teammate. As Petrino said at the vigil, To the outside world we will take the field without No. 88. They could not be more wrong. Garrett will be there, planted firmly in the heart and soul of every Razorback that plays on the field, sits in the stands or watches on TV. He is part of us and will be forever. A rosary service and visitation for Garrett Uekman will be held on Sunday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Little Rock, followed by a funeral mass at noon on Monday at the King Catholic Church. The team will attend having either won or lost against LSU. And to everyone there, the outcome will matter not at all.
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