Sal Aunese was the University of Colorado’s star Samoan quarterback who died of stomach cancer in 1989, and his team promptly dedicated their season to him. Through reflections from his friends, family, and teammates, as well as rare archival footage, Born To Lead chronicles Sal’s rise to the top as one of his team’s most valuable players and his valiant battles with the disease that took his life in 1989. Here are some articles from the past that show the love felt for Sal Aunese.
Football coaches are often very big on prayer in the locker room before a big game. An Orange Bowl is worth praying for. So is a national championship. But cynics say you don’t always find them on their knees the day after the game. They put God on hold until they need him again.
On Sept. 23 at 8:47 p.m. Aunese died of stomach and lung cancer. But as a clergyman told them during a memorial service, and as running back Eric Bieniemy repeats over and over: “Sal’s still here. You just have to point a little higher.”
Linebacker Junior Seau of USC wears a towel with the name ‘Sal’ printed in large letters.
Sal refers to Sal Aunese, the Colorado quarterback who died last month after a six-month battle with stomach cancer. Seau and Aunese were cousins who grew up together in San Diego.
Under a high blue sky on a perfect fall day last week, with the front range of the Rocky Mountains at his back and the bustle of noontime in front of the University of Colorado's Norlin Library passing before his eyes, Sal Aunese sat on a concrete bench and talked about freedom.
Quarterback Sal Aunese, who made the Times’ second-team All-County squad a year ago, has rushed for 274 yards and four touchdowns; and running back Roger Price has gained 387 yards and scored five times. Brett Smith, a fullback who had been out with an injury since the season opener, will return tonight.
It may well have been the most deafening moment of silence in the history of college football. Just before the kickoff of their game last Saturday with Washington in Seattle, Colorado’s players dropped to their knees, pointed to the weepy sky that spread like a bruise above Husky Stadium and, as opposing players and more than 69,000 spectators looked on in silence, bade a wordless farewell to quarterback Sal Aunese, who had died a week earlier of stomach and lung cancer at age 21. That this silent salute looked a lot like 60 guys signaling “We’re No. 1” may have been the purest of coincidences. Then again, judging by the 45-28 defeat the Buffaloes dealt the Huskies to raise their record to 4-0, maybe it wasn’t. “We pointed to the sky to let Sal know we were thinking about him,” said Darian Hagan, a sophomore who replaced Aunese as the starting quarterback. “And to say the sky’s the limit for this team.”
This week, Colorado is acknowledging two important dates in its football history.
Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of the death of quarterback Sal Aunese, who succumbed to stomach cancer Sept. 23, 1989 — just six weeks after being diagnosed and during what would have been his junior season.
A swell of crowd noise, loud enough to blot out thought and envelop the senses, was periodically piped into the football stadium at the University of Colorado on an otherwise quiet afternoon last week.
Strangely, however, this intrusion into the Buffaloes’ practice did not have the desired effect. Although sound reverberated off empty seats and could be heard a block away, students on foot or bikes seemed not to notice. No one running plays on the field seemed too bothered, either. READ MORE
The Game: A week after playing in a game that ended after 11:00 p.m., the Washington football team (5-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) travels to Boulder to face Colorado (2-6 overall, 0-5 Pac-12) in an 11:00 a.m. MT (10:00 a.m. PT) game Saturday at Folsom Field. The game will air live on the Pac-12 Networks. Washington is trying to break a brief, two-game losing streak (both to teams ranked in the top 15 in the nation) while the Buffaloes have lost four in a row, including two in overtime and another by just five points. After the trip to Boulder, the Huskies are back at home the following Saturday, Nov. 8, as UCLA makes a visit to Husky Stadium.