Aliquippa's Bronaugh dies after battle with leukemia
Aliquippa running back DiMantae Bronaugh, whose battle with cancer twice cost him his senior season yet inspired others to be #24strong, died Tuesday.
His death was announced via a Facebook page his family had used to chronicle Bronaugh's fight with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“My heart is hurting beyond anyone can understand,” the post read in part. “My baby is no longer in pain. He is no longer suffering.”
Bronaugh, 19, had rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior in 2014, but his cancer surfaced just before his senior season.
The WPIAL granted him an extra year of eligibility, and he rallied this summer to rejoin the football team after he fought the cancer into remission. But his illness returned this summer.
Bronaugh gave a pre-game speech to his Quips teammates and was on the sideline Nov. 18 at Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class 3A final between Aliquippa and Beaver Falls. A year earlier, Beaver Falls presented Bronaugh an autographed banner and donation with funds collected by students and faculty.
“I'll remember him as such a competitor,” Aliquippa coach Mike Zmijanac said. “This summer he worked so hard and refused to give up (on football) until he was re-diagnosed. It's a real testament of his courage.”
Aliquippa superintendent Dr. Peter Carbone released a statement, saying grief counseling will be available for students and staff members at Aliquippa Junior/Senior High School and Aliquippa Elementary School.
“He was a remarkable young man and a true asset to the school community,” the release stated. “Tragically, his life ended way too soon. The school district's thoughts and prayers are with his family in this time of sorrow and sadness. It is important that we all remain #24 STRONG for his family and our students.”
Schools from around Western Pennsylvania rallied around Bronaugh, holding fundraisers and setting up tents to register possible bone marrow donors at high school football games. Charlotte Heyward-Holifield, the mother of Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward, organized bone marrow registry drives in Aliquippa.
In a WPIAL playoff game against Derry, the Trojans presented Aliquippa's captains and coaches with a white Derry jersey with Bronaugh's No. 24 and surname across the shoulders and a football with “God Bless the Quips” written in permanent marker.
“This is the biggest game in the history of this school,” Derry coach Tim Sweeney said before the game, “but it pales in comparison to a young man's life.
“Both teams need to honor DiMantae with the way they play.”
Bronaugh's illness captured the attention of athletes from all over Western Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin posted on Twitter, “RIP DiMantae Bronaugh. You showed so much courage and heart and were an inspiration to many. My sympathies to family, friends & teammates.”
Pitt running back James Connor, who returned to the field this fall after a battle with cancer, posted on Twitter “RIP young DiMantae .. This is tough. #24Strong.”