LITTLE ROCK (AP) — More than 500 people turned out to Little Rock’s Catholic High School for Boys on Monday to pray for a University of Arkansas football tight end who died Sunday. The school had initially planned a rosary service for no more than three dozen people.
Garrett Uekman, 19, died Sunday after being found unresponsive in his dormitory room. Uekman graduated in 2010 from Catholic High, which initially set aside time Monday afternoon so school athletes who knew him could sit in a chapel to pray and visit.
"This started out as a rosary for the senior football players and basketball players who knew Garrett. This was a way to help them grieve," Principal Steve Straessle said. "It went from being a rosary for about two or three dozen to, it got out on Facebook, and the kids who were recent graduates called and asked if they could come and then their parents called and asked if they could come and of course, we want to welcome as many as we can."
Beneath banners honoring state championship teams in football, basketball, soccer and the Quiz Bowl, students, alumni and parents stood, sat in the bleachers or kneeled on the hardwood floor as the school’s rector, Msgr. Lawrence Frederick, led prayers. Many wept.
"It’s tough to see them under this situation," said Central High football coach Ellis "Scooter" Register, who coached Uekman and the Catholic High Rockets two seasons ago.
Straessle said the school was unusually quiet for a holiday week.
"The week of Thanksgiving is a pretty boisterous time and it was a somber day. The boys knew that we were having the rosary, obviously, and it was very quiet," he said.