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BYU begins process of dealing with grief

They are scores of young men whose ages range between 17 and the mid-20s - the age of invincibility. They are university athletes who play an aggressive, rugged sport and whose physical condition is primed and peaked - giving a sense of immortality.

Yet BYU football players are facing reality and emotional turmoil now, as death has claimed one of their own. A pall is cast over the Provo campus - it's now the mourning after.Sophomore cornerback Terrence Harvey - a Las Vegas native and junior-college transfer who had arrived at BYU only three weeks earlier but had started against Southern Methodist just four days ago - was killed in a Monday night rollover on I-15 just south of Provo. A pair of fellow Cougar defensive backs - freshman Roderick Foreman and junior Tony Fields, the latter a high school and JC teammate of Harvey's - were injured in the automobile accident.

Thrown from the vehicle, Harvey died of a severely bruised heart after several hours of unsuccessful efforts to revive him at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Foreman underwent surgery on his right hand and remains hospitalized in satisfactory condition. Fields, who was driving the Nissan Pathfinder that reportedly had reached speeds of 80 to 90 mph just before the rollover, was treated and released.

Within days, the Y. football team is expected to take the Cougar Stadium field and face Utah State in a Beehive State battle Friday night before a crowd of more than 60,000. Uncertainty abounds as to how BYU will respond to the midweek loss - an emotional one that won't show up in the weekly standings, but one that will tug at the team for weeks to come.

Hoping to help his program cope with the unexpected tragedy, BYU coach LaVell Edwards helped issue an initial statement released Tuesday by the athletic department. After a late-morning meeting with coaches, players and counselors, Edwards placed his team off-limits to reporters.

Neither Edwards nor any BYU players participated in the weekly Big 5 Huddle media luncheon Tuesday in Salt Lake City, as the untimely death dominated conversations. BYU sports information director Ralph Zobell's voice cracked with emotion as he related details of the accident, and the Cougars found an empathetic ally in an in-state rival.

"It's not a day you feel like coming down and talking about football," said shaken University of Utah coach Ron McBride. "I don't know how that would be for me, what my reaction would be if that happened to me. It would be a hard thing to take."

Cougar players are reacting to the death as they would the loss of a family member, explained Ron Chamberlain, BYU's athletics academic adviser. One of several counselors speaking in the team meeting Tuesday, Chamberlain has a doctorate in counseling psychology.

Chamberlain refines his football-to-family analogy, since the team's large quantity of players and units makes the Y. team more like an extended family. It is the players and coaches closest to Harvey - those involved in the secondary, roommates and close friends, other black players - who are experiencing the greatest shock and disbelief.

"It's hard to think that less than 12 hours ago you lost a teammate, and now you have to go on with your life," he said, adding that the team structure and upcoming game can be beneficial in BYU's grieving process.

"Because there's a game - something to put their focus into - I can't see why they can't come together as a unit and draw closer together," Chamberlain said.

But the players' nature calls for them to turn inside, rather than toward outside resources such as clergy, counselors and others willing to listen.

"One, men deal with grief a little bit differently than do women, and two, then you throw in an aggressive, macho sport like football," said Chamberlain, noting that individuals often take an attitude of "these are my feelings, and I'll deal with them the way I want to."

Instead, opening up allows for a healthy emotional release. "One of the most therapeutic ways in dealing with something like this is that you talk to others," said Chamberlain, who already has noticed players turning to each other.

A number of BYU's other benefits to bereavement: older players (maturity), returned missionaries (spiritual perspective), married players (with wives and families to turn to), and a university based on religious beliefs. It's the perspectives, values and beliefs that help in the long term.

Questions will still plague the players - particularly the peers involved in the accident. Why the high speed? What if a seatbelt had been worn? Why did the accident have to happen?

The shock and disbelief will soon wear off, and inabilities to cope with the death may be manifest in different ways a week or two later. "It's more of a depression rather than a normal sadness - lack of eating, lack of sleeping, lack of interest, social withdrawal, lack of concentration," Chamberlain said.

"It will present itself pretty clearly."

Chamberlain isn't envious of Cougar coaches, either, who not only have to care for their own emotions but those of their players.

"They've got a tough job," he said. "They've got to deal with the immediate concerns and then help the players get on with their lives, in getting the student-athletes to go to class and to perform."