PUEBLO, Colorado — The CSU-Pueblo athletic community is mourning the loss of one of their football coaches this past weekend.
Defensive Coordinator Donnell Leomiti passed away July 4, 2020, nearly seven years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"That is his legacy, someone who looks adversity right in the eye and face it," said former CSU-Pueblo defensive back Jarrod Lacy, who was apart of the 2014 National Championship team.
A warrior among the Pack, Leomiti didn't back down from any challenge.
"He didn't settle," explained CSU-Pueblo head football coach John Wristen. "He continued to raise the standard and make sure everyone understood that."
Hired back in 2009 as one of the orginal coaches for the restarted Thunderwolf football program, the man they called 'Coach Leo' went right to work.
"I can remember like it was yesterday," said Lacy. "I got the phone call from him. Back when I was in high school. And he was smooth"
A five minute conversation while ordering a drive threw dinner and Lacy was hooked - but he wasn't the only one.
"He is a man of all men," said Paul Browning, former CSU-Pueblo wide receiver, who was also apart of the 2014 National Championship team. "We love and miss Leo."
And as coach, Leomiti was brilliant. He related to his players and preached the fundamentals.
But it was his toughness that stood out from the rest.
"How dare we come in and say we are tired, we are sore, we are hurting, coach I can't go today, knowing what he was going through," explained Lacy. "The surgeries. The aches and everything that comes with cancer. We had not excuse at all. We have to come and give it our all everyday because we got someone who is actually fighting for their life. And never, not once, complained about it."
"Believe it or not he taking chemo during the games," added Wristen. "And be able to manage it last year."
In the three years Leomiti has been charged with the defense, the Pack have totaled seven All-Americans, 12 all-region players and 28 were named All-RMAC (two RMAC Defensive Player of the Year awards).
In all three seasons the ThunderWolves have finished top five nationally in interceptions and top 10 in scoring defense.
A National Champion, an NCAA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year, a father, a son, but most of all - the ultimate fighter.
"He fought the great battle for the past 7 years," said Wristen. "He was a true warrior. And never had a woe me moment in those 7 years. I am very lucky to be apart of him."