IRVING, Texas - Josh Brent and Jerry Brown met in college, forming a close, unshakeable bond. Having realized his NFL dream, Brent was trying to help his roommate do the same.
But Brent wasn't starting on Dallas' defensive line when the Cowboys kicked off in Cincinnati on Sunday. He was in jail, accused of driving drunk and causing a fatal accident that killed Brown, an expectant father who had just landed a spot on the Cowboys' practice squad.
About an hour after the grieving Cowboys secured an emotional 20-19 victory over the Bengals on the final play, a barefooted Brent walked slowly out of the jail in the Dallas suburb of Irving after his release on $500,000 bond.
Surrounded by camera crews and reporters, Brent had several patches of missing hair and a bandage wrapped about his right hand.
"Jerry Brown was my very best friend, and I'm just trying to deal with his death right now," Brent said, stopping briefly when asked if he had anything to say to Brown's family. He didn't answer any other questions.
Brent, a 6-5, 320-pound nose guard, was arrested at the scene of the accident Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a charge upped to intoxication manslaughter after Brown, 25, died.
Attorney George Milner complained that Brent's bond was set "16 times higher than it would have been for anybody that doesn't play for the Dallas Cowboys."
Brown had promised his family that he would play professional football full time, his grandmother said. "He lived for football," Theresa Clark, 63, of St. Louis, told the Associated Press on Sunday. "He loved it with all his heart."
The two athletes' friendship, which blossomed during their three seasons at the University of Illinois, was obvious to those who knew them.
"You can't get any tighter than those two," Milner said, crossing his index and middle fingers.
The circumstances surrounding Brown's death didn't change his family's view of his relationship with Brent, who pleaded guilty to a driving under the influence charge while at Illinois in 2009. "I'm quite sure that Jerry thought the world of him and respected that young man," Clark said.
In the Illinois case, Brent was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 2 years of probation among other sanctions, court records show.
Brown's mother, Stacey Jackson of Champaign, Ill., confirmed Brown's final Facebook post from Nov. 29, in which he wrote that he was expecting a child.
"She will be here in 2 more months," Jackson said. "She is going to be well-loved. I have scrapbooks and everything to show her what type of father she had."
Clark added: "I have 20 grandchildren and Jerry is the oldest," Clark said. "They all looked up to him. They praised him. They were all really upset and crying. They are going to miss their big cousin. He was one in a million."
The Cowboys didn't hide their emotions Sunday after Dan Bailey kicked a field goal as time expired to beat the Bengals and keep their playoff hopes alive.
"I don't remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born," Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. "With Josh's situation and Jerry being gone, you felt it."