Note: The following was originally published in March, 2013:
From the outside in, Chicago Marist (Ill.) junior tight end Nic Weishar recruitment looks fairly normal, but in reality, the past year has been anything but routine.
“Last year was pretty good for me, but also pretty hard for my family and I,” Weishar said.
Weishar, saw his older brother, Andrew Weishar’s three year long battle with colon cancer come to an end in October.
“My brother battled cancer since he was 19,” Weishar reflected. “He was 22 when he passed away. It was hard to see him struggle every day.”
Nic, who is 17, learned many lessons from his older brother and is proud to eventually follow in his footsteps to play college football.
“He went to Illinois Wesleyan and played football freshman year,” Weishar said. “And then he got sick and started chemo that summer, but whenever he could go to the games he was there for his friends on the team as much as he could be.”
Although only a junior, Nic currently has 19 offers now, and is holding Andrew's advice dear.
“Recruiting wise, he was always just really interested and really wanted what was best for me. He loved to go on the visits with me and I am so glad I got to share those experiences with him.”
One of the moments that Weishar remembers the most, was a moment on a recruiting trip with his oldest brother.
“I remember going to Michigan and Andrew was with us then, and we sat down with Coach Hoke for an hour and a half or so,” Weishar said. “And he loved Coach Hoke and similar with the other places we visited together.”
Plus, Andrew always had good advice for his youngest brother.
“He always told me his opinion on coaches and the visits,” Weishar said. “And those stick with me too. I love to have those memories and I will keep those things in mind when I am making my decision on a college.”
The advice was not limited to recruiting. Andrew was also there to critique his younger brother on the field, even in moments of success.
“I could have four or five touchdowns in a game, but after every game he would still tell me what I did wrong,” Weishar reflected fondly. “I would be all excited about the win and he would sit me down in the living room after watching the game from the stands or online, and he would tell me what I needed to improve on to get better.”
Weishar added, “He definitely kept me grounded.”
Then came October 12th, 2012.
Weishar was suiting up for one of Marist’s toughest opponents of the season, Benet Academy, and things changed all too suddenly. Football, one important part of the brothers' relationship became part of a healing process.
“When he passed away, it was a Friday and we had a game that day,” Weishar said. “And I thought about it and talked about it with my family, and I knew he would want me to play. It was a hard decision because obviously I wasn't in the best state of mind. It was a tough decision, but when I thought about it I think my family needed me to play, and try to get my mind and their mind off of everything.”
And with a small laugh Weishar added, “I think Andrew would have been angry if I didn’t play.”
From that point on, the game of football means something entirely different to Weishar and his family.
“That is when I decided to dedicate the season to him, and every season I ever play to him,” Weishar said. “Every game I just thought about him, and in practices as well, because I knew he really wanted to but wasn't able to play football again.”
In Andrew’s honor, Nic carries a symbol of his brother's battle onto the field with him each and every game.
“We have blue wrist bands because colon cancer is represented by blue, so we all had those made,” Weishar said. “I wear it every day, I don’t take it off.”
And on Friday night, under the lights that little wrist band speaks volumes to Weishar.
“In high school football you aren’t supposed to wear that kind of stuff but I wouldn’t play a down without it,” Weishar said. “In fact, during one game, my glove got torn off, and I had it on under my glove, the referee saw it and yelled at me to take it off.”
Weishar didn’t and hid it quickly back under his glove -- until the same thing happened again.
“The referee stopped the game and he made me take it off. Then he went over to the sideline and gave it to my coach,” Weishar said. “As soon as the play was over I went to the sideline and he gave it right back and I hid it under my glove again. I feel naked when I don’t have it on.”
But it isn’t just the good memories that Weishar leaned on throughout the tough times.
“I spent a lot of time with my coaches when all these things were happening, and Coach Pat Dunne told me what makes me special is my faith and how I believe and that everything happens for a reason.”
He continued, “I learned just to never shy away from your faith and that really helped me get though this as well, and I will definitely be praying on my college decision when I make it.”
Plus, Weishar also learned that when times get tough, family is still there.
“I know that throughout this whole battle, and just experiencing it with my family I had to grow up a little faster and learn how to talk to the meida and coaches,” Weishar said. “The best thing about me now is that I realized I love football but first and foremost is family, that is the biggest thing that I have learned though this entire last year and a half.”
And those priorities won’t change as Weishar continues to move closer and closer to college football.
“My family is going to be a key part, for example their opinion on visits, they see things on visits that I haven’t seen, they pick up on things that I don’t see, and just getting their advice on what they see and how they feel,” Weishar said. “Ultimately they just want me to be happy and I know they trust me and they will be happy with whatever I do.”
In the meantime, Nic and his brother Danny are heading up a foundation in memory of Andrew.
“It’s called the Andrew Weisher foundation, my other brother Danny is running it too,” Weishar said. “We are planning a big event this summer, and we are calling it ‘Weish Fest,’ its August 3rd and it will be a big festival with music, and it will be a fun time.”
Although the past several years have been hard for Nic, he knows he will come out on top.
“I just think that I learned though this whole process that I am truly blessed, more than I could imagine,” Weishar said. “It was very hard for me. but I am happy that he was able to be around through the last couple years.”