Nearly six months after his brother’s death, A.J. Pasquale has found a new home in a familiar place
By Steve Breazeale
When news hit the morning of Sept. 8 that Nick Pasquale had died, it was a blow that was felt from San Clemente to Los Angeles and beyond. That same day, hundreds joined the Pasquale family to mourn the loss of the UCLA red shirt freshman wide receiver and former San Clemente High School standout, who was struck by a car while walking home in the early morning hours.
Among the many faces in the crowd were Pasquale’s UCLA football teammates and coaches. The player dubbed “Pacman” had endeared himself to his teammates with a gritty, determined approach to the game of football. The Bruins dedicated their season to him, wore patches on their jerseys, stickers on their helmets and painted his number on the field at the Rose Bowl. The Pasquale’s attended every Bruin game and found solace at the one place on Earth they felt closest to Nick—UCLA.
As the days following his brother’s death turned into weeks and weeks to months, Pasquale’s older brother, A.J., was taking it all in.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the staff remained a constant presence in A.J.’s life. He was sent words of encouragement and offerings like, “Anything I can do to help, let me know”. He couldn’t focus on his career path in business marketing, so A.J., a four-year baseball and football player in high school, took them up on it. He is now a full-time intern for the UCLA football program.
“(Nick’s death) made me take a step back and kind of reprioritize what was important to me, like not to just let time go by and collect a paycheck. I wanted to do something I was passionate about,” A.J. said. “I felt at home being at UCLA with all the teammates and staff and coaches. I made an effort to get up there two or three times a week to see the guys, check out practice and be in the locker room.”
That passion and effort did not go unnoticed by associate athletic director Rip Scherer, who A.J. credits with helping him prepare for a new career. After researching how so many members of the football operations staff worked their way up, A.J. discovered that it started with internships.
He is already working in Westwood, doing whatever odd job they might have for him. Because he is so new to the program his internship hasn’t been fully defined, but A.J. hopes to get into recruiting and operations. He said he’d like to do anything from analyzing recruit highlight tapes to organizing visits.
Mel Pasquale, a veteran coach of more than 30 years, raised his sons to be students of the game, so breaking down film and dissecting plays has become something of a family trait. When Nick was in high school and A.J. away at Northern Arizona University, Mel and wife Laurie would send DVDs of Nick’s Triton football games to A.J. The two brothers would hold impromptu film sessions over the phone the next day.
“(The internship) fully pulls into A.J.’s strengths. He has that passion and desire to be there. He has a burning desire in his gut,” Mel said. “He will be able to grow so much there being around all those great coaches. It’s a dream job for him.”