Former Idaho Vandal football signee Jace Malek, who inspired the team while he battled cancer for more than a year, passed away Sunday.
Malek, a fullback from West Valley High in Spokane, signed with Idaho in February of 2015, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma a week before signing day. Idaho coach Paul Petrino opted not just to honor Malek's scholarship, but had him serve as a student assistant coach last fall while still undergoing treatment. He had his right leg amputated last summer.
“He’s a great kid, he does a lot for us and he’s provided a lot of inspiration for our program,” quarterback Matt Linehan said Oct. 24. “I’m never going to forget about him as I go forward through life, knowing what he’s gone through ... I love him to death.”
For Idaho’s season opener against Ohio, Malek was one of the team’s captains, and after the Vandals’ Oct. 24 win over Louisiana-Monroe, Petrino gave the game ball to Malek. “That’s what it’s really about, there's not a whole lot more special kid than him,” Petrino said after the game.
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“Every day we get to around him, it’s a great day,” Petrino said following the team’s season finale Nov. 29.
Before his death, Malek fit a lifetime worth of experiences into a few months. In addition to being honored by the football team, he was given a special permit in November to achieve a lifelong goal, hunting a moose. Petrino made sure to mention it in his next news conference, noting a proud Malek texted him a photo soon after. He also got married in October.
“I am thankful Jace Malek was part of our team,” Petrino said in a statement Sunday. “I know everyone feels the same. Jace made me a better father, better coach and a better person. I am grateful and honored that he was part of my life.
“We love him and will miss him.”
A feature by Campus Rush on Malek: