Berlin high school football player remembered at vigil days after losing fight with cancer

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BERLIN –Sage Park in Berlin is where Nicholas Zuk shined, and on Wednesday night, the Berlin community made sure he could shine on the football field one last time.

The 17-year-old rising senior at Berlin High School passed away on Saturday after battling cancer for a year and a half.

His classmates, friends, family members and fellow Berlin residents placed paper luminaries on the field in the shape of his football number #53 surrounded by a heart.

“Football was a really big part of his life and I think that's really what took him through this fight every day. It was, ‘I'm going to get through this because I want to play football,’” said Zuk’s cousin Shayna Zuk.

Zuk was a starting right tackle and nose guard on his varsity team as a sophomore in 2014, but was forced off the field later that season when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“It was really hard to go through. He did his best. He never stopped smiling. He was always so positive and we’re definitely going to miss him,” said his sister Katlyn Zuk.

His teammates and friends say it will be hard going into their senior year and last season of high school football without him.

“It’s like a gap, you know. Everything you do, when you hang out with friends and stuff, it’s going to be a void. But when it comes to football we have something to play for and I know that’s what he would want,” said Jack Hamel, Zuk’s teammate and friend since elementary school.

Hundreds attended Friday night’s vigil, which was organized by a Berlin resident who didn’t know the Zuk family well but wanted to create a space for them to grieve with the rest of the community.

Friends say they weren’t surprised by the large crowd that came out to pay their respects.

Lifelong friend and teammate Mitchell Maslowski said, “This is what he was. He was a people person. He had a lot of friends. He was very approachable. He likes the company. This was a great turnout for him.”