CRAWFORD | Louisville's Grantham said "heart stopped a little" when he heard players had been shot
Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantam became the first coach to talk about the shooting that sidelined two Cardinal linebackers at an off-campus party on Dec. 11.
ORLANDO, Fla. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville had made no official statement regarding two players who were reported to have been shot in an off-campus incident on Dec. 11. Identified in media accounts as linebackers James Hearns and James Famurewa, the pair is in Orlando for the Cardinals' bowl game this weekend against LSU, but neither will participate in the game.
Louisville football has declined to confirm, officially, the identity of the players, as has the Louisville Metro Police Department, and the university, as a rule, lets police take the lead on such matters.
But Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who oversees the team's defense, on Thursday described his reaction to the news, and how his defensive unit is dealing with it.
"Your heart stops a little bit," Grantham said. "Because you are talking about student-athletes and young men who are working to get their degree, and they have hopes of playing football and continuing their career. Fortunately for everyone involved, they're OK, they're going to be fine, and that's the most important thing, they're going to be able to move forward with their lives."
There now have been three Louisville football players sidelined by shootings this season. Cornelius Sturghill, a sophomore cornerback, was sidelined for the season after being shot in the foot over the summer during a drive-by shooting in his hometown of Memphis.
Hearns, a junior linebacker, leads the team in sacks and reportedly was shot in the elbow. Famurewa, a back-up at the position, reportedly was hit in the arm and foot.
All three players were present at a Louisville team event Thursday afternoon, in which Louisville players interacted with local kids for an hour on a playground set up outside of Camping World Citrus Bowl Stadium.
Hearns' left elbow was heavily braced. Famurewa was getting around with the assistance of a scooter. And Sturghill was back with the team, interacting with kids.
Grantham said that these kinds of incidents are becoming too common, and not just for athletes, and said he tries to use them in an educational way with his players.
"You know, you always use those things, unfortunately with the society we live in today, things happen," he said. "And it's always an opportunity to educate guys, and let the next person understand what can happen, and just make sure you're safe as you move forward in your life. Fortunately, both guys are fine, everybody is OK, our thoughts and prayers obviously go out to all the victims that were in it, and the biggest thing now is to get those guys healthy."
Grantham did not elaborate on any specifics of the incident.
A “significant activity report” obtained from U of L police last week by WDRB News and titled, “Shooting of football players and cheerleader” said that police responded to the complex west of Fourth Street and Cardinal Boulevard at 1:54 a.m. and that director of football operations Andy Wagner was notified of the shooting.
The report stated that during the party, “a pushing, shoving match started, then it went outside with a fight ensuing with someone having a gun. Suspects apparently fled from the area.”
One suspect was described as a black male in black clothes who had dreadlocks. The report said the victims believed they could identify the suspect but did not know who he was. A third victim, a female, has not been identified by police or in media reports.
On a far less important note, the loss of Hearns and Famurewa does have an impact for a banged-up Louisville defense entering a bowl game against an LSU offense that has topped the 38-point mark in five of its past seven games.
"Obviously, both of those guys contributed to our play this year," Grantham said. "I think James Hearns is a guy that came on and really played well for us, allowed us to be 7-1 in the league. You know, that's why you recruit. That's why you coach during the entire year. That's why we have, you know, crossover periods where our backups get reps. I've always said injury kind of creates depth, and it gives people opportunity. So the guys that we have, Amonte Caban, Gary McCrae, Malik Staples, those guys are going to get an opportunity to play, and we'll obviously coach those guys up and be able to develop them throughout this game. And, some guys have to dig in a little bit. Jonathan Greenard, who's a guy that's started for us at times this year, made some plays for us. He's obviously going to have a big impact. Devonte Fields, it's his last game. It's just one of those next-man-up kind of attitudes that you've got to have as a team, because things happen. We have really good leadership with Keith Kelsey and our seniors that we're going to make sure that guys are ready and they're prepared."
As for the players, wideout Jamari Staples said the incident involving Hearns and Famurewa led to discussions among the players, and he thinks brought them closer.
"We've just been able to come together and just stick together close as a family," Staples said. "I mean, we're already close, but this just brought us even closer, just keeping those guys up and being positive in the situation, looking at everything else we have going on around."
The players could be seen during their interactions with kids joking with Hearns and Famurewa. Lamar Jackson nudged Famurewa as he got close to him with his scooter, saying, "I don't want to touch that thing."
Hearns interacted with kids, though he had more team personnel around him.
Both are expected to be able to make a full recovery, coaches said, and hope to continue their football careers.
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