Originally published 1:15 p.m. Sept. 8, 2013.
Nicholas 'Nick' Pasquale, a redshirt freshman football player at UCLA and described as the heart of San Clemente's 2011 team that reached the section title game, was struck and killed early Sunday morning by a vehicle.
He was 20.
Pasquale died at the scene of the collision after being struck by a Mercedes Benz sedan at 1:27 a.m., according to an Orange County Sheriff's Department report.
According to friends of the Pasquale family, the 2012 graduate of San Clemente was walking home from a party and was about a mile from his Forster Ranch house, which was descended upon by classmates on Sunday.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora was among those who visited the home. He also dropped in on other teammates in the area to check on them in light of the tragedy.
According to Orange County Sheriff spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock, Pasquale was on foot when he was struck by a vehicle going westbound on Camino de Dos Mares, west of Calle Nuevo, in San Clemente.
Pasquale was a redshirt freshman at UCLA, meaning he sat out last season and still retained four years of athletic eligibility, who played wide receiver. The team listed him as 5 feet 7 inches, 172 pounds. The university newspaper, the Daily Bruin, said he was a walk-on wide receiver.
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"It's a very tough day," said Jaime Ortiz, head coach at San Clemente and the defensive coordinator during Pasquale's time at the city's only high school.
Pasquale started at cornerback on the San Clemente varsity as a sophomore, and was a two-way starter, at cornerback and slot, the next two seasons, including his senior 2011 season in which San Clemente reached the Southern Section Pac-5 Championship. The Tritons were beaten by Santa Margarita Catholic, 27-13.
"I remember him from the week we prepared for the championship, and here was a young man who played with so much spirit and enthusiasm, he seemed like the kind of young man any community would be happy to have represent them and any coach would say, 'This is why I coach,' " said Harry Welch, the coach at Santa Margarita. "On behalf of the Santa Margarita program, we extend our condolences and sympathy to his family and are honored to have had a moment in his life."
The death sent shockwaves through the community. Mel and Laurie Weber Pasquale both graduated from San Clemente in the early 1980s, and older son A.J. graduated in 2008. Mel Pasquale has been involved with the Triton football program for more than 25 years, Ortiz said, and carries the unofficial title of Director of Football Operations for his role in carrying out the behind-the-scenes responsibilities of making a program work.
"I like to call them one of the official families of San Clemente," said Ortiz, who conversed with Nick Pasquale before San Clemente's 35-32 nonleague victory Friday over Long Beach Cabrillo. Pasquale watched the game from the sidelines wearing a UCLA emblazoned shirt. As a youngster, Pasquale was on the sidelines as a ball boy for the Tritons.
UCLA had a bye this weekend, so football players had a few days off with time to return to their hometowns, which was the case with Pasquale.
A vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the stadium on San Clemente's campus.