MESQUITE, Texas — Aaron Lowe was remembered as a person full of optimism at his funeral in the suburban Dallas city of Mesquite, Texas, on Monday afternoon.

A large contingent of the University of Utah football program, including players, coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff were among those on hand to honor the memory of Aaron Marquez Lowe on a cloudless, mild fall afternoon.

Over 800 mourners gathered at Family Cathedral of Praise, a nondenominational church located only a couple of miles from the high school stadium where Lowe starred as a defensive back for West Mesquite High’s Class of 2019.

“I needed Aaron’s optimism,’’ said Sharrieff Shah, the Utah assistant who had the most contact with Lowe as special teams and cornerbacks coach. Shah spoke passionately about Lowe. “Aaron had an impact on our entire staff.’’

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham memorializes Aaron Lowe during a funeral service at Family Cathedral of Praise on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Mesquite, Texas. Lowe, a student and football player at the University of Utah, was was shot and killed on Sept. 26 at a postgame party. | Brandon Wade, Associated Press

Lowe would not only promise Shah he would be better, but qualified it by saying he would be 22% better, Lowe’s jersey number.

“Our coaches view each of our players as our son,’’ Whittingham said. “Aaron is gone, he’ll never be forgotten. His legacy will live on in our hearts and through the memories we have of him.’’

“It is hard to be a part of a college athletic program,’’ said Utah athletic director Mark Harlan. “It is the elite of the elite. This program is all about family, and that’s why we were so honored to have Aaron.’’

In the classroom setting, Harlan noted that Lowe’s professors commented on how curious he was about his field of study, communications.

University of Utah President Taylor Randall called Aaron “a light.”

“When he walked into a room and you saw that smile, he lit it up,’’ Randall said. “We can all be that light and make things better for our community.’’

Randall thanked the family for sharing Aaron with the school.

Born on May 1, 2000, Lowe died at age 21 in the early hours of Sept. 26.

Utah’s Aaron Lowe honored with a candlelight vigil, with attendees encouraged to be ‘22% better’

Hours after participating in his team’s 23-14 victory over Washington State in the Pac-12 opener on Sept. 25, Lowe was shot and killed and a female companion was wounded at a house party in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.

On Oct. 3, Salt Lake City police arrested Buk M. Buk, 22, for investigation of aggravated murder, attempted murder and felony discharge of a firearm.

Monday’s somber mood comes on the heels of a celebration two days earlier when Utah defeated USC 42-26 in Los Angeles, the Utes’ first game since Lowe’s shooting death.

“The win at SC was for Aaron,’’ said redshirt freshman cornerback LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson to the applause of the crowd.

Freshman quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson, a fellow Texan, remembers Lowe as first person he met when he arrived at Utah. “He was the big brother I always needed,’’ Jackson said.

The Utah football program was prominent in the decoration of the sanctuary with a pair of giant letter “U’s” in red flowers and several footballs on the floor near the casket. Lowe was in his football uniform, including the white No. 22 game jersey. The casket was closed just before the start of the service.

Many of Lowe’s family in attendance wore red-and-white T-shirts made up for the occasion with a double “U” on the front and No. 22 with Lowe’s name on the back.

In the cruelest of coincidences, Lowe’s former teammate in high school and later at Utah, Ty Jordan, died in an accidental shooting incident nine months earlier on Christmas break in Denton, Texas. Lowe was named the first recipient of the scholarship to honor Jordan prior to this season. He requested a number change from 2 to the 22 worn by Jordan.

A football is placed in the center isle during a funeral service for Aaron Lowe at Family Cathedral of Praise, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Mesquite, Texas. Lowe, a student and football player at the University of Utah, was was shot and killed on Sept. 26 at a post-game party. | Brandon Wade, Associated Press

“I had someone who came from where I came from,’’ Lowe explained at the time. “The impact he left on me and all of his friends, that will be something we never forget.’’

It was Lowe, one grade ahead of Jordan, that convinced his friend to consider coming to Utah after the running back decommitted from the University of Texas. Jordan made an immediate impact, rushing for 597 yards last fall on the way to being named the Pac-12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Lowe, a 6-foot, 181-pound sophomore cornerback, contributed on special teams in Utah’s first four games this fall.

Whittingham revealed plans to retire the No. 22 football jersey in memory of Lowe and Jordan and a scholarship will be named in Lowe’s honor.

“I know God makes no mistakes,’’ said Aaron’s mother, Donna Lowe-Stern in a reflective moment before the funeral. “So whatever it was Aaron had to do, he’d already done it and God called him home.’’

Randy Jennings is a contributor to the Deseret News.