MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Football players talk about it all the time: their teammates are their family.
Two senior captains at Holy Angels are learning that this season.
Erik Nygren lost his father, Nate, after he went into cardiac arrest this summer.
Jake Pierce’s father, Jim, is now fighting his second battle with cancer.
“He was very passionate about a lot of things,” Nygren said.
Erik Nygren is a senior captain and the starting center for Holy Angels.
In July, while at their family cabin, his father went into cardiac arrest. He and his brother performed CPR on their dad for more than an hour.
“We started CPR,” Nygren said. “We tried everything we could, but unfortunately we could not resuscitate him.”
But Nygren’s teammates are carrying his father’s memory. The entire team attended Nate Nygren’s funeral.
And in a way, he’s with them on the field every Friday night.
Every player on the team has a sticker on the back of their helmet with the initials for Nate Nygren.
“I know in my situation I can go to Erik with anything and talk to him and the same with him,” said Jake Pierce.
While he helps his fellow captain through a difficult time, Pierce is facing adversity of his own.
In 2014 his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This summer, cancer was also found in his lungs.
“I was devastated, but I know he’s a fighter and he’s going to get through it,” Jake Pierce said. “He’s basically my hero. He’s done a lot of things that mesmerize me.”
Like how the team rallied around Erik Nygren, they’re rallying around Jake Pierce, too. Under the Friday night lights last week, they held a “purple-out” for pancreatic cancer awareness and they also have the initials of both dads on their team bracelet.
“You can see that the bonds are really thick with this team,” Coach Jim Gunderson said. “To me, that’s what life is all about is the relationships and bonds, and that’s kind of where this team has been.”
Jake Pierce’s dad, Jim, had surgery in August and will start chemotherapy again in a couple weeks.