More Than A Number: Red Rocks To Perform “22” Pieces In Front Of Ty Jordan, Aaron Lowe’s Family For First Time
SALT LAKE CITY – Most are aware of the impact Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe’s deaths had on the Utah football team, but few probably realize how much it impacted athletes from other sports. The Red Rocks are one such team who has continued to honor the legacy of “22”.
Since Jordan and Lowe’s passing, both Maile O’Keefe and Jaedyn Rucker have paid homage to the two football players by flashing the “22” during beam for O’Keefe and floor for Rucker. Both Rucker and O’Keefe were affected by the football players’ deaths, particularly Lowe with whom they had a very special friendship with.
Recently, Donna Sterns, Lowe’s mother was in attendance for the Red Rocks’ UCLA meet after she had to be in town for hearings regarding Lowe’s upcoming murder trial. On Saturday, February 11, Jordan’s aunt Takka and stepmother ShaQuita will be in attendance to watch the Red Rocks in the Metroplex Challenge being held in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
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This marks the first time the families of Jordan and Lowe either have or will see O’Keefe and Rucker’s routines honoring their loved ones by flashing the number 22.
Honoring Two Lives With Their Families
Both Rucker and O’Keefe had a close bond with Lowe who they said became one of their best friends pretty much from day one of moving into the dorms their freshman year in 2019.
Unfortunately, the young women said they didn’t get to know Jordan as well as Lowe since he was a year younger and came in at the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic, but felt he shared the same great spirit as Lowe in the couple of passing interactions they had with him.
Having the ability to showcase how much Jordan and Lowe meant to Rucker and O’Keefe with their routines in front of their families means a lot to both athletes.
“I didn’t know Ty Jordan as much, I was really close with A-Lowe,” Rucker said. “Maile and I were both really close to A-Lowe. I did see Ty around because at the time my boyfriend was teammates with him so I would see him in passing sometimes. That’s really cool for us to get to do that for them and have them be there.”
O’Keefe agreed with the sentiment, saying it’s an honor to be able to continue representing Jordan and Lowe’s legacy through their routines and to be able to share it with their families.
𝐌𝐀𝐈𝐋𝐄 𝐎'𝐊𝐄𝐄𝐅𝐄 𝐈𝐒 𝐏𝐄𝐑𝐅𝐄𝐂𝐓‼️
Her fifth career Perfect 10 on beam!
📲 https://t.co/uOMz8hOvm8 pic.twitter.com/e3oRyp3yRi
— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) February 4, 2023
“I think it’s amazing that Jaedyn and I can continue to support the number 22 for Ty and A-Lowe,” O’Keefe said. “I didn’t know Ty very much, but he seemed like an amazing guy and obviously had great talents. I knew A-Lowe personally and so did Jaedyn. It hits home for us and it’s really cool that she’ll be there to see that and hopefully it means something to her that we are continuing to keep that in our routines.”
That Infectious Smile
Anyone familiar with the story of Jordan and Lowe know that part of what endeared both young men to the people they encountered was their infectious smiles. When asked about how their friendship with Lowe started, the first thing both Rucker and O’Keefe referenced was his smile that could light up a room.
One year without you.
We play for you. We love harder, we smile bigger and we work fiercely with the intention of getting 22% better each day.
Your life and legacy have made a lasting impact so big that it cannot be measured.
We love you, A Lowe, and we miss you. #22forever pic.twitter.com/FgkzMoKPNE
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) September 26, 2022
“He had an infectious smile and was one of the goofiest people you’ll ever meet,” O’Keefe said. “He was just super easy-going, down-to-Earth and worked hard for everything he had and everything he was going to get. I just think a down-to-Earth, funny personality really attracts people and he was really easy to be around. He had a great spirit and great heart.”
“He used to do this smile- well, his smile would light up the room,” Rucker added. “Literally every room he’d walk into and smile, it would make everyone else smile. He was such a light in the world, and he’d do this funny smile, I don’t know how to explain it, but he’d make a funny face and would make everyone laugh. That’s what me and my gym friends remember most about him. It was like an inside joke.”
Red Rocks Remembering 22
Lowe’s death was especially hard for Rucker who revealed they were roommates at the time of his murder. It’s why she’s continued to honor her friend with her floor routine and even picking “22” as her call name last week against UCLA when the Red Rocks had their “Top Gun” night.
“It was a really devastating situation,” Rucker said. “He was actually living with me in my apartment when it happened. It was really, really sad for me and I just wanted to pay a tribute to him. It’s special to me in my heart and when I flash the ‘22’ in my floor routine, it’s something that has a deeper meaning to me and it’s really special to be able to do it and show my support that way. I think it’s really cool they will be there, and we can share that moment together.”
Go off then Jaedyn 💃 She adds a 9.925!
📲 https://t.co/OayCNvnipg pic.twitter.com/FQdqVeCt7F
— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) January 28, 2023
“He just meant so much to me and personally I just like sharing that moment with myself,” Rucker continued. “Yes, I do it so everyone can see, but it’s a moment for me and my floor team to be like, ‘this is bigger than gymnastics’. It’s a moment I can think back and just have fun and appreciate life and appreciate all of the opportunities I still get to have because some people don’t.”
Red Rocks, 22 Forever
O’Keefe and Rucker took slightly different approaches to how they honored their friend and his life. Rucker took a lighter approach by design when it came to honoring Lowe with her floor routine, wanting to make sure the best parts of who he was to everyone he met was showcased.
“I wanted it to be more happy,” Rucker said. “I didn’t want to focus on the tragedy of it, I wanted to celebrate his life. I don’t want it to be like when you remember him you think sadness. I want it to be like, when you remember him, you’re having fun and showing all of these happy emotions because that’s what he was about. He was always having fun and the light in the room. He was never dull or sad and I think he would want us to celebrate his life rather than suffer through life.”
O’Keefe’s beam routine, partially due to the nature of the event itself is more serious and reflective. The Beam Queen noted how important and cool it is that she and Rucker are able to represent both sides of the grieving process for Jordan and Lowe- the sad parts and the happy parts.
“I think it’s good to have both sides,” O’Keefe said. “Jaedyn’s a little more of a bubbly personality on that event and I’m a little more serious on that event, but I also think it shows both sides of how we knew A-Lowe and how we want to portray their memory. I think it’s best of both worlds. You get the honor and the memory on my side, but then on Jaedyn’s side you get to remember how fun and exciting and light-hearted they were. I think we kind of mixed both together.”
Time continues to march on. It’s been two years since Jordan was taken via accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound and will be two years for Lowe in September after he was murdered at a house party.
For O’Keefe, there is no amount of time that will ever pass that will make Jordan or Lowe’s story less important or not worth continuing to tell. That’s the power of the impact both Jordan and Lowe had on the people they touched in their short time with the Utes.
The #MomentOfLoudness has officially been cemented as a Rice-Eccles tradition. #22forever ♥️ pic.twitter.com/feMpsbZWLm
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) September 10, 2022
“I think just because time passes on, it doesn’t mean that their story isn’t meant to be heard or known,” O’Keefe said. “Obviously, it’s about keeping their name around and keep it going because we want to honor them and our friends- fellow student-athletes.”
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports
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