ST. LOUIS -- Friends, family, teammates and members of the community filled a church to say goodbye to former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown Jr.
He was remembered Saturday morning for his religious beliefs, sense of humor, physical presence and his lifelong desire to play in the NFL.
"I'm sad, but when I think about Jerry I just think about the happy Jerry," Jason Davis said, who helped recruit Brown to play at the University of Illinois. "He was so humble. He was so funny. He was so good at football."
Brown's youth coach remembered a player so competitive he never seemed pleased. He told about approaching Brown after a game the team handily won and asking the boy why he was crying.
"He's crying these big ol' tears and he said, 'I. I. I didn't touch the ball enough,'" the coach recalled to a roar of laughter and nodding heads.
Several relatives chose to speak to a small media gathering prior to the service. Each said Brown died far earlier than he should but they trusted it was his time. Many also said they believed the funeral would help bring closure to the close-knit family.
Andrea Bosquez was the final person to offer condolences during the service. She is scheduled to give birth to a daughter, already named Mya, in February.
"I love you," she said looking at the casket. "He was the love of my life. He was my fiancé. He was my best friend."
The cause of his death was only brought up once in passing, until the ministers began speaking in the second half of the funeral. The four who spoke talked about the evil affects alcohol played in the death but each reminded the gathering that whatever led to Brown's death did not diminish the lives involved.
"I have no answer for why this happened," one said. "But we live with the decisions -- good, bad or otherwise."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press