Football team paints rock in honor of Jason Bitsko

The Kent State football team prays around the rock on Aug. 20, 2015 before they paint it in honor of Jason Bitsko. Bitsko was a starting center on the football team and passed away on Aug. 20, 2014. 

Emily Mills

The Kent State football team painted the rock Thursday in memory of Jason Bitsko, a member of the football team who was found unresponsive in his off-campus apartment on Aug. 20 of last year.

More than 50 football players, coaches, relatives and friends gathered just before noon Thursday to paint “54,” Bitsko’s number, and “stay focused.” The phrase was included in the last tweet Bitsko sent and has become a memorial hashtag for him.

The Portage County Coroner ruled in December 2014 that Bitsko died of an enlarged heart, medically known as cardiomegaly.

Teammate Chris Humphrey said in August 2014 that Bitsko “had a big heart, both literally and hypothetically. 

Bitsko was a junior marketing major and a right tackle for the Golden Flashes. He was set to begin as starting center last fall.

Bitsko is survived by his parents, Randy and Pam Bitsko, and his siblings, Ryan and Caitlin.

Contact Emily Mills at [email protected], and contact photographer MaKayla Brown at [email protected]