IRVING, Texas (AP) — Josh Brent and Jerry Brown met at the University of Illinois, forming a close, unshakeable bond. Having realized his NFL dream, Brent was trying to help his roommate do the same.
But Brent wasn’t starting on Dallas’ defensive line when the Cowboys kicked off Sunday in Cincinnati. He was in jail, accused of driving drunk and causing a fatal accident that killed Brown, an expectant father who had just landed a spot on the Cowboys practice squad.
The Cowboys kicked a field goal on the final play to beat the Bengals on Sunday. About an hour later, Brent was released from jail in the Dallas suburb of Irvine after posting $500,000 bond.
Brent was arrested at the scene of the accident Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a charge upped to intoxication manslaughter after the 25-year-old Brown died.
Brown had promised his family that he would play professional football full time, his grandmother said.
“He lived for football,” Theresa Clark, 63, of St. Louis, told The Associated Press on Sunday. “He loved it with all his heart.”
The two athletes’ friendship, which blossomed during their three seasons at Illinois, was obvious to those who knew them. Brent’s attorney, George Milner, said Brown was living with Brent during the six weeks he spent with the Cowboys.
“You can’t get any tighter than those two,” Milner said, crossing his index and middle fingers. “It was the closest family he had was Jerry Brown.”
The circumstances surrounding Brown’s death didn’t change his family’s view of his relationship with Brent.
“I’m quite sure that Jerry thought the world of him and respected that young man,” Clark said of Brent.
Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson of Champaign, confirmed Brown’s final Facebook post from Nov. 29, in which he wrote that he was expecting a child and “how the fast life isn’t as fun as it use to be after living it for so long.”
“She will be here in two more months,” Jackson said of Brown’s baby daughter. “She is going to be well-loved. I have scrapbooks and everything to show her what type of father she had.”
Clark saw Brown about four or five months ago, but spoke with him frequently online.
“I have 20 grandchildren, and Jerry is the oldest,” Clark said. “They all looked up to him. They praised him. They were all really upset and crying.
They are going to miss their big cousin. He was one in a million.”
The accident happened hours before Brent was to be on a team flight to Cincinnati. The Bengals held a moment of silence before Sunday’s game, and most Cowboys bowed their heads. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and several other players had their hands over their hearts.
On Fox’s NFL Sunday pregame show, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team had focused on Brown’s death in the “last few hours.” He didn’t mention Brent, who played in the first 12 games and was a bigger presence than expected on defense because of injuries to Jay Ratliff.
“First of all, we all know, but we remind ourselves, that there is something more important than football, and this is life, and certainly the lost life of Jerry,” Jones said. “On the other hand, they know the best way they can honor Jerry, because he was such a hard worker, so conscientious and enthusiastic about his career.”
The Cowboys didn’t hide their emotions after Dan Bailey kicked a field goal as time expired to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
“I don’t remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born,” Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. “With Josh’s situation and Jerry being gone, you felt it.”
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple said the team was planning a private memorial service for Tuesday in the Dallas area.