COSTA MESA — Carlos Vazquez was always one of the smallest players on the football field. He made up for his lack of size by playing his heart out every down for Costa Mesa High.
On a day to pay respect to Vazquez, it was fitting small candles formed a huge heart at midfield.
Lighting up the candles proved to be difficult with the wind picking up at Costa Mesa on Tuesday. But many remembered how Vazquez used to spark a room and a team with his smile, laugh and energy.
His former teammates and coaches recalled how the 5-foot-5, 150-pounder used to light up players a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than him.
Andrew Albers, a 6-foot-8, 285-pounder, was the biggest of those players. Albers said Vazquez never backed down.
He called Vazquez the best teammate anyone can ask for in football. Albers was there for the Vazquez family, showing support on the day Vazquez' sister Magaly said Vazquez passed away at 19 from pneumonia.
Friends and former teammates, coaches, classmates and teachers joined the Vazquez family in a vigil to mourn the loss of Vazquez, a 2011 Costa Mesa graduate.
Vazquez, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, died at Children's Hospital of Orange County on Tuesday morning.
"He never gave up," Magaly said. "He didn't die from cancer. He died from pneumonia. They did intensive chemo for five days. He had no immune system for over a month and a half and he got pneumonia.
"We've all come to terms [with his passing]. This is what he wanted. He didn't want to live on machines. The decision wasn't ours. It was his."
Toward the end, Kasandra Serrano, a childhood friend, said Vazquez smiled.
"He had to show every single tooth," she said.
That is how everyone remembered Vazquez, that beaming smile of his. Even when Vazquez upset former coach Jeremy Osso, he couldn't stay mad for long.
"He'd always find a way to make you laugh," Osso said. "You can't get mad at somebody that gives you that much.
"We won two [Orange Coast League] titles with him his [freshman] year and [sophomore] year]. I honestly think that if we had him on the field his senior year, [we could've contended for another league title]. His attitude and the way he worked resonated with the rest of the team and the guys fed off that. To not have your emotional leader there on the field with you senior year was tough for these guys."
Not being out there because of leukemia for his senior year was devastating for Vazquez, a nose guard.
"He loved football," said Magaly, adding that her brother's toughness came from how he and the rest of his five siblings were raised.
Vazquez is survived by his mother Epifania, and siblings Arturo, Teresa, Magaly, Junior and Jessica.