UNIVERSITY PARK - Carol Shepherd's son plays football at Connecticut, and when she heard the awful news, she had a natural motherly reaction.
"My first instinct was to just go get him and bring him home," Shepherd said.
Her son is Bishop Carroll product Steve Greene, a freshman offensive tackle at UConn. He and his Huskies teammates are dealing with tragedy after the stabbing death Sunday of junior cornerback Jasper Howard.
"They just can't believe it happened," Shepherd said. "I've talked to Steve every day since, and the whole team is in mourning."
Bishop Carroll coach Craig Sponsky, who spoke with his former player Monday night, had a heart-stopping moment when he first heard news of the stabbing.
"You hear Connecticut football player, and you pause and hold your breath," Sponsky said. "Then you hear a name, and there's a little bit of relief that it's not yours.
"You still feel bad for the individual who it happened to, then you start to immediately worry about your kid who's there."
No one could ever imagine sending a child off to a college program and having him or her deal with such a tragedy. Still, that hasn't stopped Sponsky from harboring some guilty feelings about Shepherd's anxiety for her son.
"I feel partly responsible because his mother - you know what she's going through - and you said to her as a coach, 'It's a great place, great program,'" Sponsky said.
Greene, a two-time Class A All-State performer for Bishop Carroll, is one of two players from the region at Connecticut. Westmont Hilltop's Brad Kanuch is a senior wide receiver who starts for the Huskies.
Kanuch's mother, Kitty, declined to comment Tuesday night out of respect for her son and what the players on the team are going through. Kitty Kanuch is the sister of Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, and her son, Jim, was a receiver for the Nittany Lions earlier this decade.
"I would think it's the ultimate nightmare for anybody that's concerned about his fellow man, to have a 20-year-old kid lose his life in that fashion," PSU coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday.
Paterno later added, "I always think about it as a parent. The kids are away at college, what they dreamed about, and all of the sudden it's cut off. To me that's a tragedy, and I don't care whether it's a football player or whomever it may be."
Howard, a 20-year-old father-to-be, was stabbed on campus during a fight outside of a dance early Sunday morning. No charges have been filed in the case.
His funeral will be held Monday in Miami, and Shepherd said her son and all the Huskies players will be in attendance.
"The team is all together; they're all like one," Shepherd said.
"My heart just goes out for the parents of the player. It's just a tragic thing."
The Connecticut campus, located in Storrs, is in a remote, isolated area - not exactly the kind of place one would consider a dangerous environment.
"Things like that can happen anywhere," said Penn State receiver Graham Zug, who was recruited by UConn and visited the campus. "All it takes is one person, and unfortunately, it happened to be in Connecticut."
The tragedy has shaken the entire college football world the past few days.
"A couple of us have mentioned it to each other," Zug said of his teammates. "It's unreal that something like that can happen."
When it does happen, it usually has far-reaching effects. This tragedy occurred 450 miles away, yet it has an impact on families in central Pennsylvania.
"I just hope nothing like that ever occurs again," Shepherd said. "You just hold your breath for your son."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.