Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE L ife's wish list for Notre Dame fifth-year senior tight end Nic Weishar (pronounced wisher) never included starting a chari- table organization. In fact, Weish4Ever is an endeavor Weishar and his family would have rather never been compelled to launch in the first place — but trag- edy left them no choice. In the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 2012, Nic's older brother by about five years, Andrew, lost his three-year battle with colorectal can- cer at the age of 21. Nic's mentor and greatest fan, An- drew helped nurture his younger brother into one of the best prep tight ends in Chicagoland history and helped steer him toward Notre Dame for the next step in his life and football career. "Andrew was as unselfish and car- ing a person as you could meet," Nic said. "Even when he was dying, peo- ple would come to see him, and he'd want to know how they were doing. "He always put others ahead of himself." Andrew was a standout two-way lineman at Brother Rice High School in Chicago and excelled as a backup defensive tackle in 2009 as a true freshman at Division III Illinois-Wes- leyan. Set to secure a starting spot there as a sophomore, he began ex- periencing severe stomach pain and rapid weight loss. His tragic diagnosis was followed by two years of grueling chemother- apy and radiation treatments, surgery, remission and a re-diagnosis that the cancer had returned. Once a sturdy defensive lineman, Andrew had lost nearly 50 pounds when he finally succumbed to this dreadful disease, but through it all he kept spirits high and followed the motto "I am not done fighting." A brother's courage is part of the reason that on the same day that An- drew passed, Nic never even con- sidered skipping his game that Fri- day evening for Marist High School. It was a game where he hit a rival school with 13 catches for 128 yards and helped his family start the heal- ing process, if only for a short time. "Having me out on the field brought a smile to their faces," Weis- har said in recollection. "Football was an escape for me. But I think my family needed that more than I did." That family bond and a desire to help others inspired the Weishars in 2013 to start the Andrew Weishar Foundation (AWF), a non-profit or- ganization designed to alleviate the mental and financial burden families stricken with cancer face too often. The AWF mission is clear: "pay forward" and "pay back" the acts of kindness Andrew received during his three-year fight. Cancer not only impacts its victim, but it devastates families in many other ways, includ- ing physically, psychologically and financially. AWF tries to ease these hardships through kindness, generosity and other activities that can provide a temporary escape. "During Andrew's three-year bat- tle, his greatest highlights were the 'escapes' from the treatments and realities of the diagnosis," begins an excerpt taken from the AWF website,, that outlines the mission statement of the foundation. "Andrew's time with his family, friends, and moments of everyday normal activities provided needed reprieve from the realities he was facing." One of the more popular founda- tion fundraisers is the annual music festival called WeishFest, a multi- band event that Nic helps to plan, organize, host and celebrate. "You feel love in the air," he said. "People who didn't even know An- drew are brought to tears." According to the event website,, the music festival has raised more than $650,000 for cancer victims and their families since its launch in 2013. "There are a lot of great nonprofits out there that are for research," Weis- har said. "What we aspire to do is to give help to those who need it right away." Popular rock band Third Eye Blind headlined the festival last year, O.A.R. was the top act in 2016, and Eddie Money and Warrant shared the marquee in 2015. This year's event is scheduled for Dec. 1, on two stages at a club near Marionette Park outside of Chicago. It's expected to attract thousands and carry a heavy Notre Dame presence that will include an auction of Irish gear to raise additional dollars. The concert lineup for this year's event is still being put together. "What Nic brings," Irish head coach Brian Kelly explained, "is just his personality, who he is as a person, what he represents, in particular the WeishFest. What he has done for his family resonates throughout our en- tire football team." TAKING THE FIFTH Business degree already in hand, Weishar could've chased his dream of becoming a chief financial officer and passed on a fifth year of college football. In fact, most third- or fourth-string tight ends with only 15 career catches wouldn't even be considered a candi- date by their coaches for a fifth sea- son. However, Weishar did record nine catches with two touchdowns last season, despite playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. But Kelly saw something in his veteran tight end — something that transcends any pass patterns or blocking drills. "As a leader, he's exemplary," RESPECTED LEADER Fifth-year senior tight end Nic Weishar has persevered through a family tragedy to play an important role for the Irish Weishar hauled in nine receptions with two touchdowns despite playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder last season. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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