The Minnesota Golden Gophers took the field Saturday with heavy hearts following the death of former offensive lineman Nick Connelly on Wednesday. To symbolize their compassion for Connelly and his family, each member of the Gophers had a sticker put on their helmets with the initials “NC.”
Maryland, the Gophers' opponent this week, also added a sticker to its players’ helmets with Connelly’s number 74 in an outline of the state of Minnesota next to its “79” sticker for former Maryland player Jordan McNair, who died earlier this year.
Always with us. pic.twitter.com/fFLe5aaZJB— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) September 22, 2018
Some members of the Gophers also wore wristbands in remembrance of Connelly.
Connelly started the first five games for coach P.J. Fleck and Minnesota in 2017 at right tackle before retiring due to concussions. Connelly was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called Burkitt's lymphoma. His father, Chuck Connelly, said Thursday on Twitter that "heaven needed a right tackle and Nick Connelly got the call.”
Fleck said this week during a press conference that Nick would be in the team’s thoughts and prayers and each player had “humble hearts” moving forward.
“Any time you have cancer, it's one of those battles that none of us want a family member to have and go through personally,” Fleck said. “He's got incredible resolve, and he's a wonderful human being. I know he's got a lot of teammates praying for him and supporting him.”