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SALT LAKE CITY — As Aaron Lowe's family entered the Family Cathedral of Praise in Mesquite, Texas, each person walked in donning a white T-shirt that featured a University of Utah logo on the front and A. Lowe and the No. 22 on the back.
His Utah football family were already seated in the chapel after making a chartered flight down to Texas a day after the program's first-ever win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday — the team's first game since Lowe's untimely and tragic death the last weekend of September.
Football and the University of Utah meant everything to Lowe. That love was on full display as the chapel was transformed with University of Utah signage, Lowe's framed No. 22 jerseys and helmet, and pictures of the former defensive back during the funeral service for him Monday afternoon.
Lowe was defined by more than the sport he played but the sport was his connection to so many that remembered a life that was "infectiously optimistic," cornerback coach Sharrieff Shah said.
"Aaron was a lot to a lot of people," Shah said. "He was many things for a lot of people — he was a son, brother, nephew or cousin — but to us, he was a tremendous teammate. Kindness flowed through Aaron's veins, like the ocean. He loved for the sake of loving and for nothing else; he just loved you."
Shah, who gave an impassioned speech of his experience with Lowe, detailed the hard situations he put the young defensive player in while trying to help him improve as a Division I athlete. From his improved academics, where Lowe was "thriving" and was "a beacon" to others for his hard work, to his pursuit at being better on the field, Lowe embraced it all with a smile.
"When Aaron and I would have tough conversations about on-the-field, off-the-field, he would always end with, 'You still love me though, don't you coach?' Every time: 'You still love me, don't you coach.' That resonated with me," Shah said.
"When Aaron would say that to me, 'You still love me though, don't you coach?' it became real in my spirit because it became something that I understood. What we have to do as an obligation is to still love those that we claim we love, even when they don't meet our expectations, even when they fall short — we have to still love them, and we have to tell them over and over and over and over again, we still love you."
Shah said Lowe would always tell him "I'll be better" and then detail all the ways he could improve in the demanding sport. But that desire to improve left "an indelible mark" on his coach.
"What he began to do for me is that he defined what it meant, 'I'll be better,'" Shah said. "So when Aaron passed away and was called back to God, we all met as a football team on Sunday. And the only thing that I could say to the team that resonated my spirit was that our obligation is that we need to be — not just better — be 22% more better.
"Be 22% more better because that was Aaron's number. The number before him was Ty Jordan's number — that number is not going to be anybody else's number. And it can be a witness in front of everybody right now, I will be 22% more better in all of the capacities that God has placed me in."
For his teammates, who are left grieving the loss nine months after losing another teammate in Ty Jordan, Lowe was considered an older brother to many and was the friend that was loyal and true.
"I just want to let you know that he was more than a teammate, friend; he was a big brother," quarterback Ja'Quinden Jackson said. "A. Lowe was the big brother that I always wanted."
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said he loved Lowe "just like everybody who came in contact with him" and that he was "a special person." Lowe "lit up" the room whenever he entered and had a special "charm and charisma, and he approached life with clear eyes and a full heart."
"We lost a loved one; we lost a family member, and it's difficult," Whittingham said. "We won't get over it, but we'll get through it. Aaron is gone; he will never be forgotten. His legacy will live on in our hearts and through the memories that he left us at the University of Utah.
"We're also going to retire the jersey number, and some other things that we have planned," he added. "We just love this young man. ... Aaron, we love you and we will miss you."
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