TEMPE, Ariz. -- The talk on the street here is not about murder.
Arizona State receiver Derek Hagan just got picked as a Playboy preseason All-American. Basketball star Ike Diogu might or might not leave early for the NBA. The Suns are making a playoff run. The ASU campus is winding down for another year. Tank tops and flip flops rule.
|Former RB Loren Wade averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2004. (AP)|
"I was kind of fearful of the fact that it could continue to be news," Kishore Joseph said recently. Joseph is the general manager of the popular Stateside Grill, near Sun Devil Stadium. "It's not. Let's look to the future. ... That's the vibe I'm getting."
It might be callous to say, but it seems that the horrific act has been pushed to the background in the Valley of the Sun -- in part, because of the above factors; in part, because Wade's former teammates have to be resilient. They don't have a choice.
"It took a while to get over it," said tight end Zach Miller. "You're initial shock factor is just like, 'Wow, it's crazy.' Eventually over time -- a few weeks -- you learn to accept it and get through it."
Wade set the school's freshman rushing record in 2003. He had been linked to a series of off-field problems throughout his career before the murder.
Wade's presence on the roster added to the hype over this being Arizona State's best team since the 1996 Rose Bowl squad. Miller was the Pac-10 freshman of the year and a freshman All-American. Hagan just ran a 4.44-second 40 on pro timing day and is considered a Biletnikoff Award (best receiver) favorite. Quarterback Sam Keller threw three touchdown passes in his first career start in the Sun Bowl.
Without Wade, Arizona State is still the Pac-10's next-best team, hoping to end USC's reign of excellence. It's a lot easier to think about that than of a former teammate in prison. Wade allegedly shot Faulkner in the parking lot of a Phoenix nightclub after Faulker had talked to a female friend of Wade's.
Keller was literally handing off to Wade one day in spring practice and dealing with the tragedy the next.
"Bottom line is we're going to come out of this stronger than ever because we don't have any choice," Keller said. "You have to take the positive out of any horrible situation. Without overlooking the most important factor that this was a tragedy, all we can do is rebound."
Miller grew up in the Phoenix area and has been able to gauge the region's reaction.
"That will be completely over with by (the fall)," Miller said. "The only people that will bring it up is media and stuff. Our team is disciplined enough and mature enough to move on from that.