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Monday, April 11, 2016

KU’s spring game welcome distraction

Kansas wide receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr. (5) is brought down by linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At left is cornerback Marnez Ogletree (25) and at right is defensive tackle Jacky Dezir (54).

Kansas wide receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr. (5) is brought down by linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At left is cornerback Marnez Ogletree (25) and at right is defensive tackle Jacky Dezir (54).

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Saturday afternoon’s spring game provided Kansas University’s football program an opportunity to turn its attention back to the gridiron and away from the heartbreaking news about the passing of former Jayhawk Brandon Bourbon.

And while the sound of thumping pads and cheering fans gave the Jayhawks temporary relief from the pain, the sadness of losing a former teammate and friend in such a tragic manner quickly returned to weigh on the minds of those who knew him.

“It was good,” KU linebacker Joe Dineen said after Saturday’s game. “But now it’s back to the grieving process.”

Bourbon’s death, which authorities officially ruled a suicide, marked the second tragic death during Dineen’s KU career thus far.

Prior to his freshman season, Dineen dealt with the sudden death of friend and foe Andre Maloney, who collapsed on the field during a high school game and died a few days later. In tribute, Dineen requested to wear Maloney’s No. 29 to honor the former Shawnee Mission West standout.

Seniors J.J. Jolaoso and Marnez Ogletree both currently wear Bourbon’s No. 25, but neither Jayhawk played with him.

Just 27 players on KU’s current roster suited up alongside Bourbon, and only 13 were on the roster the last time the former KU running back played in a game during the 2013 season.

Injured in preseason camp before the start of the 2014 season, Bourbon missed his entire final season at KU before going on to Washburn in Topeka to play out his eligibility in 2015.

Although he never actually played with him, Dineen developed a bond with Bourbon as the player asked to help replace him.

When Dineen, a former Free State High standout who now is the heart of KU’s defense, arrived at KU, he was penciled in as a safety. But when Bourbon and fellow former KU back Taylor Cox were injured within hours of each other in camp, Dineen was asked to move to running back, a position at which he excelled in high school.

That opened the door for Dineen and Bourbon to develop a relationship that might otherwise never have happened.

“During camp, when we’d stay in the hotel, I’d just go down to his room, and we’d watch film or go over plays because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Dineen said Saturday. “He showed me the ropes, and he was hard on me, but it made me better and made me work harder.

“Honestly, it was motivating, too, because you want to impress guys like that.”

Like so many others who have made their voices heard this weekend in the wake of Bourbon’s death, Dineen remembered his former mentor as one of the friendliest people he knew.

“Brandon was a great dude,” he said. “There’s guys that will put on a front and act like good people, but, behind closed doors, Brandon was just the coolest guy. You could go talk to him about anything, and he would joke with you and take care of you. ... You get that news, and I didn’t even know... He just didn’t seem like that guy. I guess you never know what someone’s going through, so that caught me.”

Funeral services for Bourbon will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Potosi (Mo.) High School football field.

Saturday’s game featured a moment of silence for Bourbon, and the broadcast of the game on Time Warner Cable also included a tribute to his life and time as a Jayhawk.

Beyond that, Dineen said he was not aware of any other plans to honor him.

“So far, no, because it’s so new,” he said. “But I’m sure we will. I think it’d be a shame if we didn’t do something for him. ... I guess you gotta go through a grieving process, and eventually things kind of get back to normal, but there’s still going to be a hole there.”

Comments

Dale Rogers 6 years, 1 month ago

I still think the things I've read make suicide seem unlikely. I sure hope someone is investigating his death further.

Greg Ledom 6 years, 1 month ago

Not sure what you've read Dale, but they completed an autopsy on Brandon. Based on that, they should know with certainty what the cause was in this situation. Sad news all around regardless.

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