Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Memory of close friend serves as inspiration for UConn's Abrams

Kamal Abrams, seen celebrating after a touchdown
in the spring game, was deeply impacted by death
of his close friend Rashaad Lewis last month
Even now when he thinks back UConn receiver Kamal Abrams can't believe that his close friend Rashaad Lewis will not be among his circle of friends he hangs out with on future trips back home.

Last month Abrams got word that 20-year-old Lewis was stabbed in an altercation and became the first homicide in Dover, Delaware this year.

Abrams left UConn for a brief period so he could return home for Lewis' funeral.

When he returned, he was still in mourning but rather than wallow in despair, he used the memory of Lewis and the good times the two shared to help him become a better person and better football player.

"I was most definitely ready to come back. I couldn't just give up because of the fight he had for his life," Abrams said. "I admired that and it still sticks with me to this day. I have to continue to fight for my goals and dreams, live through him, not take anything for granted and cherish these moments with my teammates in my college career. I only have two seasons left so I am going to try to make the most of everything I can.

We grew up together, he was a close friend of mine, my dad knew his dad and when I was home, we always hung out. I've always had a close spot in my heart for him so when he passed it really hit me."

Abrams was given permission to take whatever time he needed in order to be there for not only his own family but that of Lewis as well.

"I felt like I did (help Lewis' family) and they helped me a lot," Abrams said. "It was a reality check but for the most part being around family is always a good thing, it kept my spirits high and I am pretty sure I kept their spirits high. The only thing I can do is pray for him and let his family know that he will always hold a special spot in my heart for him.

"This is my first time dealing with stuff like this. I lost grandparents but somebody that so close to my age and somebody I would see when I was home, it was really devastating and to this day I still can't believe that he passed."

After missing the season opener due to a lower-leg injury, offensive tackle Andreas Knappe is getting closer to returning to the field for the Huskies.

"He is getting closer," UConn coach Bob Diaco said. "He is going to do more in practice, more push and pull kind of activities. Most of his activities up to this point have been mental and has been without resistance so we will add controlled resistance today to his work load."

Diaco liked what he saw from former Ansonia High star Arkeel Newsome, the all-time leading rusher in Connecticut high school football history and could see expanded roles for both Newsome and fellow true freshman Ron Johnson.

"They are coming on, I am pleased with that group," Diaco said. "Arkeel played 10 plays, some plays go in as runs and change while they are in the course of the play but Arkeel showed everything we were talking about a few weeks ago. He's got a burst, he hits everything at full speed, he doesn't decelerate to cut or move, he has good vision and he has excellent contact bounce, whether it be inertia or general power to run through tackles. He is an impressive back, he needs to get the ball more and he will."

Diaco said he intends to continue platooning players for the next two weeks and by the time the Huskies open American Athletic Conference play with a game at South Florida that he will settle on a more streamlined substitution pattern on both offense and defense.

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