Franciscan isn't just playing to win.
May 13, 2015 by Jesse Moskowitz in Profile with 6 comments
Franciscan Fatal has had an extraordinary spring season. The team played in four tournaments, going 4-0 at a shortened Midwestern Invite, winning CWRUL Memorial (with two victories over Ohio Valley D-I 5th place finisher, Case Western Reserve), and sweeping the DIII series. Fatal outscored their opponents in three regionals bracket-play games by a combined score of 45-13. At 22-0, the team is undefeated and the #1 seed at DIII Nationals.
However, Franciscan Fatal is no stranger to loss.
Despite the elite ultimate talent at Franciscan, the school had no registered club team until last season. Prior, ultimate existed and flourished only through intramurals.
A few years ago, one particular intramural team was started by a couple of freshman: Patrick Flanagan, Jack Nash, and Stephen Wilson. Also on this team was a student by the name of Neal Rylatt. The four teammates became close friends, meeting up nearly every day to throw and play pick up.
Rylatt quickly earned the nickname “Fatal,” a play on his middle name (Albert) and consequent high school nickname, “Fat Al.” Ironically, Rylatt was extremely thin, but he was also a tireless, aggressive player on the field — and so, the name Fatal was born.
Unfortunately, before their intramural season began, Rylatt was rediagnosed with leukemia, a disease he fought during high school, and he was forced to return home for treatment. To recognize and support their teammate and friend, Flanagan, Nash, and Wilson named their intramural team Fatal and fought hard every game with Rylatt in mind.
On May 4th, 2012, Rylatt lost his fight with cancer. Flanagan and Wilson served as pallbearers at his funeral.
As juniors two years later, Flanagan and Wilson decided to take ultimate at Franciscan to the next level. With the commitment of other students, they founded a club on campus and of course, named the team Fatal in Rylatt’s memory. They proudly wear “N.A.R. #16” on the sleeves of their jerseys.
Franciscan has since vaulted to the top of the DIII scene. With elite high school players from Holy Family Catholic and Cincinnati Pig (YCC), Fatal has transformed into a force, and the early favorite to win the DIII Championship this year.
While an appearance at Nationals is significant to every team in attendance, the tournament takes on special meaning for Flanagan, Nash, Wilson, and the rest of the Fatal boys.
Rockford, Illinois, is Rylatt’s hometown and the town where his family still resides. This weekend’s trip will be Flanagan and Wilson’s first time back in Rockford since the funeral. Now seniors, the two will get a chance to fight for a National championship right in Rylatt’s backyard.
Everyone plays this game for a reason. Win or lose this weekend in Rockford, Franciscan Fatal will take the field to honor Neil Rylatt and pay tribute to a founding member of the club they love.