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Idaho football signee, student assistant coach Jace Malek dies after cancer battle

Jace Malek (99) was one of the Idaho football team’s captains for the Vadnals’ season opener Sept. 3 against Ohio. After fighting cancer for more than a year, Malek died Sunday.
Jace Malek (99) was one of the Idaho football team’s captains for the Vadnals’ season opener Sept. 3 against Ohio. After fighting cancer for more than a year, Malek died Sunday.

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.

“Every day we get to around him, it’s a great day,” Petrino said following the team’s season finale Nov. 29.

 
Jace Game Ball

Coach Petrino giving Jace Malek the game ball after the Vandals' homecoming win Saturday against Louisiana Monroe. Jace continues his battle with cancer, but remains an important part of this Idaho team. TackleCancer99 #GoVandals

Posted by Inside the Vandals on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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:

         
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