Nick Pasquale was a walk-on receiver from San Clemente. (Courtesy of the Pasquale…)
Nick Pasquale understood about San Clemente. He was from there, as am I.
One town, one team. It binds you together.
Friends tire hearing about what I tell them is the greatest little community on earth. A place where kids grow up to play for the town’s one high school, where the homecoming parade still runs up the main street.
Nick understood these things because he lived it. He was what I tell my friends about.
Pasquale died early Sunday morning after being struck by a vehicle. It is a tragedy beyond words to describe.
In a cellphone society, Nick was two tin cans attached with a string. Old-fashioned hard work put him on the UCLA sidelines.
Hey, it’s a San Clemente thing.
Nick’s grandfather was a teacher and assistant principal at San Clemente High School. My dad taught there. His father was, and is, a Triton, and is still deeply involved with the program.
Friends roll their eyes at the whole one-town, one-team thing. But Nick was the poster boy for that motto.
There was no reason I should have ever crossed paths with Nick Pasquale, not covering UCLA football. He was a 5-foot 7-inch receiver/defensive back with more desire than ability. Yet, I would see him every day as he came out for practice.
Nick made that happen.
It’s a San Clemente thing.
He earned a walk-on spot with the Bruins last year and spent every day proving he belonged. He fought through a concussion this summer. Coach Jim Mora was thrilled to get him playing against Nevada on Aug. 31.
Every day, Nick was there, in the heat at Cal State San Bernardino for training camp and on those early … really early … morning practices in Westwood last fall.
Nick was never going to the NFL. He probably would never have earned a scholarship -- though you should never underestimate a Triton. Nick put in the effort because he wanted to be there.
It’s a San Clemente thing.
I often wear a Triton shirts to practice, and those at UCLA are far from thrilled with a bold red color. Nick would pass me, smile and say, “love the shirt.”
Tritons Coach Jaime Ortiz said Sunday, “We talk with our kids a lot about what it means to be Triton, being a close-knit community, that we’re one town and one team. Whenever I describe what we expect, I think of Nick.”
The last San Clemente team Nick played on reached the Southern Section Pac-5 championship game, only the second football title game in school history. Everyone on that team was a part of the whole, not an individual, from quarterback Travis Wilson (now starting for Utah) to lineman Kyle Murphy (now at Stanford) to Nick Pasquale.
"He was an undersized cornerback and not the fastest guy, but he always found a way to make things happen,” Ortiz said.
One town. One team. One tough kid.
Nick was a San Clemente thing.