On Sept. 8, 2013, UCLA football walk-on Nick Pasquale was hit by an automobile and killed. He was alive just 20 years, but the impression he made in that short time is evident in the reaction to his death.
A year later, the Bruins continue to honor both his memory and his family, both of which were the subject of Episode 3 of The Drive.
America knew some of the story last year, particularly the week of the Bruins’ first game without Pasquale. UCLA scored an emphatic, come-from-behind victory over Nebraska, which culminated with Brett Hundley waving a towel that had Pasquale’s number etched on it.
Jim Mora’s message to the Pasquale family on the ABC postgame interview provided a small, yet touching insight into the relationships coaches develop with their players.
Wednesday’s episode of The Drive goes much deeper into that dynamic.
You’ve probably heard coaches discuss college football as a business. That same principle was plainly evident in all the discussion of the NCAA and revenue distribution that shaped the offseason.
But scrape away the layers of cynicism that have built around college football, and at its core, there remains the soul that separates it from the truly businesslike NFL.
Nick Pasquale embodied that soul, as The Drive Episode 3 demonstrates. He overcame his own limitations to find a spot on the team, and he left a lasting impression on his teammates. UCLA’s dedication of his No. 36 to the hardest working and most committed walk-on player is a testament to the special bonds college football teams can build.
The bond between the Bruins and the Pasquale family demonstrates just how important those personal relationships can be.
It’s also something of a reminder that the football program is still a part of the university culture. This ostensibly makes players students and coaches teachers.
Mora seems to embrace that role; it’s a mantra he often talked up last season and continues to emphasize in the 2014 season. He’s worn that cap especially proudly since Pasquale’s death.
I cannot accurately convey just how emotional or meaningful Episode of The Drive really is. No matter your team allegiances, this is one episode that is truly a must-watch.