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Brotherly Love: Tragedy inspires AJ Pasquale to start anew at UCLA

For all his gifts, AJ Pasquale never received his brother’s singular vision and doggedness; he’ll tell you that. Nick spoke little, reserved and humble with a sweet exterior, but internally he had some hardass to him. He fought his 5-foot-7 frame and a bone disease that left him with a disintegrating right femur at 8 years old to become a sophomore starter on San Clemente High’s varsity football team and a UCLA Bruin. He didn’t physically intimidate on a field, so he compensated with this fearless reluctance to give a damn.

Nick would have been 21 on June 20, another year closer to becoming a firefighter, the life his parents, Mel and Laurie, envisioned for him when he outgrew his youth. A physical, honorable job for a competitive, committed man.

AJ was different. He didn’t lose himself at the bottom of specific dreams, more willing to let the world graciously offer its opportunities. He was intelligent, the brains, along with buddy Aaron Krempasky, behind a senior management project at Northern Arizona that devised an eco-friendly packaging solution for New Belgium Brewery. He was mature, the recent grad who grabbed a suit and rode with John Elston, family friend and the boss who hired him out of college at Yo!Dog Marketing, up to L.A. to pitch business because he had a gift for bringing warmth into those cold boardrooms.

He was curious, constantly surfing UCLA sites and later visiting Westwood to ask people, What, exactly, was Nick’s life like up here? He was the likable and popular high school athlete who made time, a trait he shared with Nick, which is why among the first things anyone will tell you about the Pasquale brothers is, goodness, they have so many friends.

Culled together, that package of qualities meant AJ could do anything. He had what every kid grinds through college for – options. What he needed upon graduation in the spring of 2012 was more of his brother, another dollop of Nick’s ferocity that cut fields of barbed wire to clear a path to his dreams.

If he did, maybe he wouldn’t have taken that great digital marketing job out of school, where his branding intellect and social media sensibilities made him a rising star. Maybe he wouldn’t have allowed few initial connections in the sports industry to derail his long-held dream of entering it before he even tried. Maybe. He doesn’t know. All lives spar with hypotheticals.

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