LUBBOCK TX - After a long battle with cancer, 18 year-old Luke Gonsioroski passed away Monday.
Texas Tech Head Football Coach Kliff Kingsbury had a difficult time talking about the player he never got to coach at a press conference Wednesday.
"We talked about his [Luke's] story yesterday," Kingsbury said, "I think it meant a lot to our players, and it just makes you appreciate everything you have...makes you put it in perspective."
The practice field at fall camp was full all week long, but Gonsioroski wasn't there. He had committed to walk on as a quarterback in January, and would have enrolled in classes in Summer 2017. According to friends and family members, Gosioroski couldn't wait to be a Red Raider.
"Luke was so thrilled," Cousin Gabe Gonsioroski said, "He called me after he talked to Kliff Kingsbury just about every time. And he just said, 'Dude, I think I'm gonna go to Texas Tech."
According to Kingsbury, Luke Gonsioroski never let on how sick he really was, even in his final days.
"He was an unbelievable young man in every sense of the word," Kingsbury said, "Just texting with him the last couple of weeks, he never let on he was in that bad of shape. I never knew he was in hospice care...it was always, 'Hey, God's got me and I'm doing good Coach, I hope you're doing well,' that's just the type of young man he was."
Luke grew up in Montana, throwing the football with his cousin, Gabe Gonsioroski and sister, Hannah.
She said it wasn't just the football program excited to have Luke in town. Since her brother passed away, Hannah received dozens of messages from complete strangers, telling her they were so disappointed not to have Luke play for their team.
"His three favorite things were faith, family and football," Hannah said.
In March 2016, everything changed.
"He was starting to feel shortness of breath, and he couldn't breathe," Hannah said. "We were doing track warm-ups, and Luke's one of the fastest kids in the state. I was close to him."
A CAT scan revealed Luke had cancer. After five months of treatment, he was back in the game.
"He took a hit two months later on the football field. Glory to God really...it was unbelievable," Hannah said, "No one believed it...he was a living, breathing miracle."
The time off didn't slow Luke down. He went on to play his senior football and basketball seasons, leading his team to the state finals.
Hannah described the progression of events as insane.
"This little kid from Baker, Montana, a tiny town...and he signs to play at a huge school," Hannah said.
Unfortunately, the cancer came back. And just before he would have made the move to Texas Tech, Luke lost the fight.
Starting Quarterback Nic Shimonek said he plans to do something in Luke's honor at every game.
"Whenever he came in the spring, I talked to him...you'd have never known anything was wrong with him," Shimonek said. "Great kid, obviously. I wish he could've come here, he could've definitely helped us out."
Even in his last moments, Luke persevered. He told everyone he was going to be okay no matter what.
"He got diagnosed with cancer and we're all like 'Oh no, are you serious?'" Gabe said, "And Luke was like, 'I'm gonna be fine.' There was never ever a doubt in his mind, even the second time around. He never doubted."
The night before he passed away, Luke found the strength to sit up in his hospital bed for the last time. He could barely talk.
"He was getting tons of messages...this kid asked him, 'How you doing Luke?'" Hannah said, "He told my Dad to tell him, 'Wonderful. Tell him I'm doing wonderful.'"
Luke passed away less than 24 hours later.
The funeral is Friday at the Baker, Montana High School Football Field.
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