Nick Pasquale was never content with downtime.
Even when sitting on the couch with his buddies, he was known to say, “Let’s make a move,” wanting to go out and have an impact on his surroundings.
Pasquale, 20, died early Sunday morning after he was struck by a vehicle in his hometown of San Clemente, Calif.
But among friends and family, memories of Pasquale as a high-energy football player and young man will never fade.
“It didn’t matter if we were going to Best Buy, going to get something to eat or actually do something cool,” said roommate and redshirt freshman center Carl Hulick. “He never had a down day. If he did something, he did it 100 percent.”
That was Pasquale’s attitude even when he was little.
After he had hip surgery as an 8-year-old, doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to take part in athletics again, yet he was determined not to miss a beat. In a full hip cast, he still played tackle football with his older brother, A.J., in their living room.
“I’d give him the ball and … (Nick would) just be not holding anything back,” A.J. Pasquale said. “He may have actually hurt me more than me hurting him with his cast hitting me. Just those brotherly times hanging around the house, I’ll never forget those and I wish I could have a few more of them.”
Pasquale’s grit never left.
From his time as a ball boy for the San Clemente High School football team to his three years as a starter for the same Tritons, he always played with a chip on his shoulder.
Standing 5-foot-7 and weighing 172 pounds soaking wet, nothing was ever going to be easy for him on the football field. Still, Pasquale believed, outworking others and sacrificing himself for his team, which he helped lead to the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division finals in his senior season.
San Clemente High School Athletic Director Jon Hamro, who knew Pasquale since he was born and coached him throughout his high school career, said Pasquale was a “coach on the field” who overcame his size with a superior football I.Q.
“He had the ability to come to practice every day and understand that in between the lines, he was going to work as hard as he possibly could to get better each day,” Hamro said. “He led by example, and played a foot taller and 40 pounds heavier than he was. He believed in himself as we did.”
Starting both ways as a cornerback and wide receiver his junior and senior years, Pasquale was a role model to his teammates. Current San Clemente High School football coach Jaime Ortiz called him a “big-time leader” who left his heart on the field on every down.
“Whenever I think of Nick Pasquale, I think of the word, ‘Triton,’” Ortiz said. “He was the epitome of what you want in a player on and off the field. He worked his butt off every single snap, every single play.”
Off the field, lifelong friend Ian Young described Pasquale as “the goofiest kid you’ve ever met,” a versatile kid who always tried his hand with skateboards, bikes, or just about anything he could get his hands on.
Young said there were many summer days when he and other friends headed to the beach while Pasquale stayed in the gym, committing himself to getting better. Following his senior season, that hard work paid off, as Pasquale earned his way to UCLA as a preferred walk-on.
“He said what he did and he did what he said, and that’s the bottom line,” Young said. “I’ll always remember Nick, and he has influenced my life greatly. I love that little kid like it’s no one’s business.”
As a Bruin, Pasquale’s toughness earned him the nickname “Manny Pacquiao,” later shortened to “Pac-Man,” among the scout team’s players.
Coach Jim Mora said Monday in a press conference that just about every day at practice, Pasquale could be found “talking smack” to special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich with a playful, “You can’t block me! You can’t stop me!”
“He’s a tough sucker,” Mora said. “He’s what 5-7, buck 65, buck 70? But his frickin’ heart jumped out of his chest. He came across the middle in scout team when he knew he was going to get whacked and he’d just get up and go back.”
And he did it without a word of complaint, earning him the respect and admiration of his teammates.
With UCLA leading late in its home opener against Nevada two weekends ago, his fellow wide receivers lobbied wide receivers coach Eric Yarber to get Pasquale in the game, and No. 36 saw his first reps as a UCLA Bruin.
Regardless of the team, regardless of his role, he was known as a selfless player who worked for something bigger than himself.
“Let me tell you what, No. 5, No. 10, No. 36, from Pop Warner to high school to college, never, ever, ever disappointed anybody,” said Pasquale’s father, Mel. “That’s what I know. He’s a great friend and a great kid and I’m going to miss him so terribly you don’t even know.”
Pasquale is survived by his parents, Mel and Laurie, his older brother, A.J., and his brothers on the UCLA football team.
A memorial service will be held for Pasquale on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m. at San Clemente Presbyterian Church.
In lieu of gifts and flowers, donations can be made to the Nick Pasquale Foundation, which aims to offer financial support to charities and less fortunate athletes who play with extreme effort and leadership.