Former Bears tight end Ryan Wetnight lost his battle with cancer Friday, passing away at the age of 49.
Wetnight appeared in 91 games with the Bears over seven seasons from 1993-99, catching 172 passes for 1,522 yards and nine touchdowns. The Fresno, Calif., native originally joined the team as an undrafted free agent from Stanford.
Wetnight is survived by his wife, Stacey, and their sons, Scott, 15, and Zach, 13.
"Ryan fought his heart out to the very end and left his children with many valuable lessons!" Stacey wrote on Facebook. "His legacy will live on in them and all the other young men he touched through coaching! … We are so beyond blessed by the love, support and prayers we have received over the last 2½ years. God bless you all! Rest In Peace my love. We love you and miss you already and will see you again one day!"
Wetnight underwent treatment for gastric cancer in 2018 before being declared cancer free in January 2019. But he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor in his stomach last September.
Wetnight lived with his family in Simi Valley, Calif. He coached his sons' youth football and baseball teams, making an indelible impact on dozens of kids and their parents. He was also an assistant football coach at Thousand Oaks High School and, more recently, Grace Brethren High School.
The entire community rallied around Wetnight during his cancer fight. That was evident April 11 when Josh Henderson, the head football coach at Grace Brethren, organized a rally in support of the former Bears tight end. Adhering to social distancing guidelines, Wetnight's friends formed a caravan of more than 100 cars—many with inspirational messages written on their windshields—and drove slowly past his home.
One of the participants, Kara Nanas, described Wetnight on Facebook as a "marquee mentor" in her son Wesley's life. "He blessed our son with nothing but the prime tools to perfect his skills in football," she wrote.
Touched by the outpouring of support, Wetnight thanked his friends via a Facebook post April 16.
"Even though I suffer, I gain motivation from your actions to keep up the fight," he wrote at the time. "The parade of cars on Saturday was amazing along with the donations, gift cards, food and incredible messages. I want everyone to know I feel the love and support from your kind gestures. This is a horrible disease to fight, but my family is extremely blessed by your love."