A childhood friend of the late David Widzinski since the third grade, Ed Szczypka said the Detroit Catholic Central High weight room was the perfect place to dedicate and honor his name.
“Whenever you needed to find him, just go look in the weight room and he’d be there,” said Szczypka said. “It’s good they named it after him.”
Widzinski, a promising sophomore linebacker for the Shamrocks who made a team-high 15 tackles in the 2012 MHSAA Division 1 championship game in a 36-21 loss to Detroit Cass Tech, was only 16 when just days later he tragically passed away in his sleep due to natural causes on Dec. 3, 2012.
Hundreds, including his parents Paul and Barb, along with brother Stephen and sister Emily, were joined by other family, friends and classmates who gathered late Monday afternoon just inside the weight room facility where a brief dedication ceremony was held in Widzinski’s honor.
A special placque was unveiled and the entrance to the weight room also bears his name as well. Widzinski, who grew up in Northville, would have been a graduating senior in 2015.
Dan Collins of CC’s alumni association made the opening remarks.
“We are here to remember David, to make sure his family knows that we remember him and we’ll remember him forever, to make sure that they know that he will continue to motivate and inspire the men of Catholic Central forever,” Collins said. “This is more than just a name outside a door that we’ve done to this room. It bears David’s name, but he inspired and continues to inspire us. There are words around this room that David would be proud of. I know he continues to be proud of all of you.”
One long inscription on the left wall quotes the New Testament Bible passage from Phillipians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
One of Widzinski’s closest friends growing up from their days of CYO football and St. Kenneth Parish, fellow linebacker and 2013 grad Brandon Malinowski, also did a reading.
“David was a sophomore and I was one of the senior captains on the football team,” Malinowski recalled. “We played together and car pooled together, spent a lot of time working out together … that’s for sure.”
Malinowski, who is a finance major at Central Michigan University while currently working this summer for a health care company in Detroit, said there were multiple layers to Widzinski’s personality.
“The thing I miss most about the car pool is that we never listened to music,” Malinowski said. “Every time I talked to him it was always just great conversation. It was 100 percent committed to getting to know each other better. Everything we did was to challenge each other and get better. That’s one of the things that really separated him from most people that I ever met. That’s one of the reasons why I came to really look up to him and I know everybody else feels the same way.”
And Widzinski had a playful side to him with a large dose of humility as well.
“I’ll miss just his goofy presence,” Malinowski said. “Every single place he went he lit up people’s eyes. Another thing I just miss about him is that he was just humble. One of the most talented kids ever to walk through this school by far, hands down. He was so humble that he didn’t even realize his own best potential. He knew he was something quite great, but he didn’t know how special he was and he just acted like everybody else. He wanted to be everybody else, but there was something about him. It was something that stood out in his daily agenda. That’s why so many people are here and why so many people loved him. People still care to this day. He makes an impact everywhere goes.”
Widzinski also had a large appetite when it came to working out.
“He was an animal,” Malinowski said. “We had a small group of guys that consisted of me, him, and a couple of other folks and we called ourselves the ‘Late Night Crew.’ Our parents used to get a little worried because they thought we were out doing crazy stuff and causing trouble, but we were in there working out, trying to get stronger and trying to get in a good football season. We certainly did that and he was a big part of it.”
And Malinowski also remembers his close friend’s “never quit attitude.”
“He’s one of those guys where you play with 11 football players on a team, it’s easy to get away with taking a play off, but that wasn’t him,” Malinowski said. “It wasn’t in his DNA. He was always giving everything that he had. That’s something that sounds clichè, but it’s easier said than done. He definitely displayed it and it stood out in his play. It stood out in the way he conducted himself. His character on the football field … just a true gentleman.”
Szczypka, who played football, basketball and baseball with Widzinski growing up in Northville, also read a petition in Widzinski’s honor.
And he was not surprised by the strong turnout.
“I definitely expected something like this,” said Szczypka, who is headed this fall to the University of Alabama. “I knew people were touched by David. A lot of people knew David and he always got around to know everyone. I expected nothing less than this.”
CC school president Rev. John B. Huber also gave a final blessing to conclude the brief ceremony.
There will also be a golf outing in Widzinski’s honor on Sunday, Sept. 6 at Tanglewood Golf Course, 53503 W. Ten Mile Road, South Lyon.
The third annual David Widzinski Golf Classic begins with a mass at the high school at 9 a.m. followed registration at 11 a.m. and shotgun start at noon. The outing includes golf contests, raffles, auctions, dinner, cash bar and live band.
Golf, dinner and dancing (until midnight) is $100 per person, while dinner and dancing is $33 per person. Proceeds will go to several different charitable causes.
For more information, visit www.davidliveson.com.