SALT LAKE CITY — Calling the murder of Utes player Aaron Lowe a "senseless loss," head coach Kyle Whittingham described how his team is coping with the death of another teammate.
Whittingham spoke with the media Monday for the first time since Lowe was shot and killed Sept. 26 after the Utes defeated Washington State. Salt Lake City police announced Sunday that a suspect in Lowe's murder has been arrested.
"We miss Aaron," said Whittingham, having gone through the loss of Lowe less than a year after teammate Ty Jordan died from a gun shot wound on Christmas.
"For our team to experience loss that we have in less than a year's period of time with Ty and Aaron has been a challenge, it's been a struggle, but we'll get through it."
Whittingham shared the similar circumstances in which he received word on the deaths of his players.
"It was surreal when I got the phone call. You know those calls are never good, that's the first thing I can say, is when you get those 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. calls and it's just never a good thing.
"It was almost the exact scenario that when I got the Ty Jordan call. It was about 5:30 in the morning when I got the Ty Jordan call, and so, first thing on my mind was, 'Oh, no. What's happened?' and you get the worst possible news.
"Worst possible news."
Lowe, who donned Jordan's No. 22 jersey this season to honor Jordan, will be the last to wear the number for the Utes, at least with Whittingham in charge.
"No. 22, you won't see anyone wearing No. 22 in this program again, at least as long as I'm the head coach, and we'd like to see that retired permanently," said Whittingham. "That's our wish and I think you'll see that happen."
After a week off, Utah returns to the football field Saturday at USC, and they'll do it with heavy hearts as Whittingham looks to focus his players on the task at hand, although in the shadow of tragedy.
"It's challenging and takes everything you've got to overcome it."