LINCOLN, Neb. -- As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard at Memorial Stadium, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley grabbed the towel that had been hanging near his hip during the game and raised it above his head before placing it over his heart.
He had written "R.I.P #36" on it before the game in honor of UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who was hit by a car and killed while walking along a street near his home in San Clemente, Calif., last week.
Hundley wanted everyone to know UCLA's 41-21 win over Nebraska, in which the Bruins outscored the Cornhuskers 38-0 in the final 31 minutes, was dedicated to Pasquale.
"There was so much emotion in this game," Hundley said, still clinging to the game ball nearly an hour after the game. "I felt like we needed to get this win for him and we had to honor him. We showed that with our play. We realized this game is bigger than just us now. Everybody is always so worried about themselves, but this game is so much bigger and we understand that now."
It had been an unimaginably difficult week for UCLA players as they tried to cope with the loss of Pasquale, a popular walk-on player who made an impact on every player and coach on the team. He was UCLA's version of "Rudy," with a heart and story to match.
Pasquale didn't look like a football player. He was a 5-foot-7, 170-pound wide receiver who never saw the field last season as a member of the scout team. He grew up a UCLA fan, always dreamed of playing for the school and acted like it every time he walked onto the practice field. It was a dream that wasn't lost on his teammates at the end of their 58-20 win over Nevada two weeks ago.
While other players were celebrating late in the fourth quarter on Aug. 31, Jordan Payton and other receivers were reminding wide receivers coach Eric Yarber to put Pasquale in. "Hey, we got to get Pac-Man in," they said. "Don't forget about Pac-Man. Get Pac-Man in."
While it would make sense for a tragedy like this to put football in perspective, in the case of Pasquale, it can also show how much the sport can help a grieving family heal.
To read more of Arash Markazi's story, click here.