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Former UT QB 'Sterl the Pearl' shares pain of losing 32 loved ones to COVID-19

Sterling Henton, also known as DJ "Sterl the Pearl," has lost 32 people, including friends, family, and teammates, to complications from COVID-19.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — For the original UT 16 Sterling Henton, the pandemic is taking its toll on him and the ones closest to him.

"To look at your cellphone and see that name there and know they're not going to answer the phone,” Henton said.

Henton has spent his life bringing smiles to faces from New Jersey to Knoxville and all across the world. Over the last 10 months, there's been an immense amount of pain.

"That number escalated past 100 that have got infected, 32 have died," Henton said.

32 family, friends and teammates.

"I don't want anybody to go through what I've gone through as far as not being able to touch, talk or have fun with individuals that are no longer here because of the pandemic," Henton said.

He knows firsthand the damage COVID-19 has done to Black communities. Data from the American Public Media Research Lab shows the virus has killed 1 in every 735 Black Americans since the start of the pandemic.

"A large majority of the African American community is in survival mode versus living mode those are two significantly different ways to breath oxygen," Henton said.

Henton is playing his part to stop the pain and hopefully save lives.

"When I wear my mask and when I put my protective gear on it's to protect people I care about," he said.

Despite the toll the virus has taken on the former QB turned DJ, "Sterl the Pearl" hasn't lost all hope.

"When this is all over we're all going to have a good time we're going to have that fun,” he said. “We're going to have that big celebration at grandma's house, at the barbeques, the big parties. They're coming back, baby, but right now, that's all on pause for the cause."

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