Even a life-threatening illness couldn’t keep Patrick Mackey away from the football field for long.
The thinning hair and surgical mask were evidence of his ongoing fight with leukemia. But when his body allowed this past fall, Mackey returned to the Central Catholic to help coach the next group of young Knights.
“He was good about taking young kids underneath his wing and reminding them that he was a freshman at one time,” CC football coach Kevin O’Shea said.
Mackey, whose leukemia fight inspired the Central Catholic community and football fans across the state, died at 7:14 p.m. Sunday at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. O’Shea said Mackey, 19, developed a bacterial infection after recently undergoing a stem cell transplant.
Mackey was an offensive lineman and senior captain on Central Catholic’s 2012 state championship football team, which won a fourth straight Class A state championship. Prior to the Knights’ regional game at Winamac, he learned that Cooper Fulmer, the younger brother of Warriors player Gavin, was also battling leukemia.
That touched home for Mackey, whose sister, Claire, had died of leukemia in June 2011 at age 15.
“I know a lot of what he’s going through right now, and I know the pain, so I wanted to make sure he knew that and that he knew how strong he was being,” Mackey said following the game.
Mackey helped organize donations and other support for the Fulmer family. On March 17, he received the Spirit of Sport award during the Indiana Football Digest’s Griddy Awards.
The following week, abnormalities were detected in Mackey’s blood when he tried to donate during a school blood drive. Doctors advised the family to seek further testing, leading to his own diagnosis of leukemia.
During Mackey’s battle, Central Catholic held a number of fundraisers and distributed orange “Patstrong” bracelets and T-shirts. This past June he and Cooper Fulmer shared the Courage Award at the National Football Foundation’s Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana honors dinner.
Mackey is survived by his parents, Joe and Tami, of Lafayette, and his older brother Connor, a student at Indiana University.
Mackey returned to help coach Central Catholic linemen last fall and served as the honorary captain prior to the Knights’ Oct. 11 victory over Rensselaer. According to O’Shea, soon afterward Mackey’s health worsened and he was not able to be out in public as much.
“Here’s a kid fighting leukemia and finding time to come back and help kids out,” O’Shea said. “He really was a true captain.”