Former West Valley football and basketball standout Collin Sather died early Tuesday morning, just weeks after he was diagnosed with advanced renal cancer.
Sather celebrated his 19th birthday Sunday in MulitCare Deaconess Hospital, where he was undergoing dialysis and chemotherapy.
Hundreds of his friends and teammates from high school and the University of Idaho visited during the weekend. In true form and despite pain and weakness, he laughed and joked with them all.
“I thought when I heard the diagnosis that if he just had half a chance, he’d be able to fight through this,” West Valley football coach Craig Whitney said. “But this was just like being sucker punched. He never had a chance to really fight back.”
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said Sather was a great teammate and a tremendous young man.
“It is a testament to him to see how many of our players cared so deeply about him and how many lives he touched in the Vandal Family in such a short time,” Petrino said. “We challenge our players to be tough and always choose character. Nobody did a better job of that than Collin.
“My time with him made me a better person and I know his teammates feel the same way.”
Sather had two reputations. On the playing field he was fierce and unyielding. He was a committed teammate, the kind you always want playing with you. Off the field, he was kind, gracious and devoted to his family and friends.
As a player he was humble and quick to credit his teammates for his team’s success. He was a two-time All-Great Northern League first-team selection, and as a senior he was first team on offense and defense.
During his final two seasons playing football for the Eagles, Sather caught 147 passes for 2,639 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior captain he helped West Valley reach the state semifinals. As a junior he was a key player on a team that reached the state quarterfinals.
“He was just a great competitor,” Whitney said. “He was a tough kid.”
Family, friends and teammates boxed up Sather’s belongings during the weekend and brought them home.
Connor Whitney, one of Sather’s best friends and a teammate at both West Valley and Idaho, visited his friend’s bedside Monday.
Sather died almost three years to the day after his former teammate, Jace Malek died from bone cancer. Both were stellar, multi-sport athletes at West Valley and both have ties to the University of Idaho. Malek earned a scholarship prior to his diagnosis with Ewing’s sarcoma; Sather was a walk-on wide receiver this past season and had a bright future with the Vandals.
Sather became ill just last month and was taken to the hospital Jan. 20.
The family posted news of Sather’s passing Tuesday afternoon. They wrote about just how much the weekend visits with friends and teammates meant to the entire family, and especially their son.
“This past weekend was truly an amazing experience for Collin and his family – we got to witness firsthand how many people Collin blessed and how deeply!” they wrote. “This certainly helped Collin too – he was blessed to feel all the love you had for him before he moved on to Heaven. I have no doubts he’s up there making people laugh when he’s not playing football with Jace!
“Thank you SO much for the prayers, love, and support for him and his family! He battled to the end in true Collin fashion – he was a fierce competitor when necessary, and a gentle, kind, nurturing, compassionate soul and companion when not trying to kick your butt in sports, video games, or card/board games! He will forever be my hero and example for how I want to face adversity!”
West Valley is still dealing with the loss of another student, athletic director Jamie Nilles said. Dance team member Sophie Hawley, 17, died Dec. 20 after her third open heart surgery to correct congenital heart disease.
“This is something you never want to be good at,” Nilles said. “But West Valley is a family and we will come together and do what we need to do to help everyone get through this. Our teachers and our staff are all here to help.”
Plans are pending for a memorial service for Sather at West Valley.