UCLA football coaches and teammates mourn popular Nick Pasquale
A day after UCLA receiver Nick Pasquale died after being struck by a vehicle, the Bruins went back to work preparing for Saturday’s game against Nebraska — while remembering their popular teammate.
Players patted two handmade posters attached to the fence at Spaulding Field, one reading “Play for each other, play for your brother,” the other, “We love you Nick.”
The practice facility’s UCLA football flag was at half staff.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who wears No. 6, walked onto the field with a “3" taped to his jersey to honor Pasquale, who wore No. 36.
Coach Jim Mora became annoyed with a television technician who was speaking loudly into a cellphone during Mora’s weekly news conference.
Mora, who was in the middle of speaking about Pasquale, told the technician to “shut up.” The technician stopped talking and indicated Mora should continue, further angering the coach. Mora called the technician “disrespectful,” and walked out.
Later, Mora met with reporters at Spaulding Field and described the gut-wrenching ordeal he and the team have been through since Pasquale’s death early Sunday. The redshirt receiver was walking on a street in his hometown of San Clemente when he was struck.
“This is not necessarily about Nebraska,” Mora said. “It is really important, not only for Nick, but for his family. The fact that he got to play football here was a dream come true for him and we need to honor that, and shine light on that, with the way we play.”
The Bruins will wear No. 36 emblems on their jerseys. Nebraska players will have Pasquale’s number on their helmets. Nebraska announced there would be a moment of silence before the kickoff.
Pasquale, 20, was a 5-foot-7 walk-on from San Clemente High. He appeared in his first UCLA game during the Bruins’ 58-20 victory over Nevada on Aug. 31.
Mora said UCLA players were urging receivers coach Eric Yarber to get Pasquale in the game.
“I have heard people say he was our Rudy, " Mora said, referring to the former Notre Dame walk-on whose story was made into a movie. “He was our Rudy in the fact that he was inspirational. But he wasn’t our Rudy, because he could play football.”
Mora went on to describe a feisty player who would jaw with assistant coach Jeff Ulbrich during special-teams work.
“He’d talk smack every day to Jeff: ‘You can’t stop me,’ ” Mora said.
Playing for the scout team against the first-team defense, “Nick would come across the middle knowing he was going to get whacked. He’d get right back up. He was one tough sucker,” Mora said.
Mora and several players attended a vigil for Pasquale in San Clemente on Sunday. The coach then met with the full team Sunday night. Grief counselors were made available to players.
“You don’t move on from moments like this,” Mora said. “You can move through them. I can never forget this kid. I can never forget that there is family out there that lost a son.”
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