Former Gophers lineman Nick Connelly died Wednesday after a four-month battle with Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks the body's ability to fight infections. He was 22.
"On Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 Heaven needed a right tackle and Nick Connelly got the call," Nick's father Chuck Connelly said via a statement on Twitter on Thursday. "Nick was winning the battle through aggressive chemotherapy until the cancer became resistant to all chemo regimens."
Nick Connelly, a Red Wing, Minnesota native, played in nine games with the Gophers in the 2016 season, and left the team last year after starting the first five games of the season. He left due to concussion-related concerns.
"We are devastated to learn of the passing of Nick Connelly," head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement Thursday. "He was an amazing young man who took exceptional pride in playing for his hometown Gophers and loved wearing the maroon and gold. Nick's family and friends are in our thoughts and we will honor him this Saturday at Maryland."
An outpouring of support came from players, coaches and members of the community after the news on Thursday.
Fellow former Minnesota lineman Connor Mayes tweeted: "This world lost an amazing person...RIP to my football brother Nick Connelly. I have so many amazing and fun memories that I was able to share with you during my time at Minnesota. Love you brother."
Minnesota tight end Colton Beebe tweeted: "Heartbroken, Nick was an amazing man and I was lucky to call him a friend. Prayers go out to the Connelly family."
The official Minnesota football twitter page tweeted: "
#Gophers mourn the loss of former offensive tackle Nick Connelly. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
Chuck Connelly brought his son's fight with cancer to the public when he tweeted on Saturday that prayers were needed in Nick's fight with cancer.
Head coach P.J. Fleck started his weekly press conference on Tuesday, a day before Nick Connelly's death, by sending thoughts to him: "From our football family, from our University, from our state that we're rolling with Nick, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as he continues to fight."
The twitter account for the Minnesota offensive line tweeted their condolences for one of their own.