On June 24, 2009, Stingers linebacker Ricky Zieba succumbed to injuries suffered in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. With his death, Concordia lost a star player and his coaches lost a son. The Zieba family lost a vital part of themselves, and the people who were fortunate enough to meet him lost a mentor and an unforgettable friend.
Sitting down to speak with one of Ricky’s closest friends, one learns that he was more than what you saw from afar.
Sure, he looked like everything came easily to him, but the more you got to know Ricky, the more you realized how much effort it took to be him.
There were many layers to Ricky. The important ones, the ones that truly defined him, were the ones that demonstrated the kind of friend he was and the kind of son he was. He loved his family and friends so much that you would be hard-pressed to find a more loyal person than him. He was true leader, and his death didn’t change the feelings of admiration and loyalty people felt towards him in life; instead it heightened them and somehow managed to put everything in to perspective.
After a year, his friends still see him around in everything they touch, whether it is on the field or in the simple things, like meeting a new person or hearing a joke. Speaking with his mother has helped some of them. Her positivity in light of the dark situation has inspired them to demonstrate the same strength she does.
This is the same strength they saw in Ricky when his girlfriend Roxanne died while the couple were on vacation, just a few months before Ricky himself passed away. Watching how Ricky could deal with such a tragedy served as an example for those facing this one.
Ricky always preached to live every day as if it were your last, and to focus on the small things in life, and his friends and family are trying to do the same. Every person he has touched now lives differently just from having met him.
Talking about Ricky isn’t hard any more. People jump at the opportunity to share their stories about him, and they smile when do.
This past football season wasn’t dedicated to Ricky, though. It would have be too much of a weight for the whole team. It was, however, played with number nine in mind every step of the way. They may not have won many games, but they wouldn’t have been able to win any had it not been for the example of his strength. The way his teammates felt last year on the field was enough to make anyone give up, but when they thought of what Ricky would do, they somehow managed to muster up the strength to play.
As battered as their hearts were, they played them out. Many of his teammates will never again set foot on a field without a number nine somewhere on their body and a heart full of the strength that he showed them how to have. Hopefully, no one will have to take on the heavy weight of wearing his number again. Anyone who ever met Ricky believes that his number would have been retired anyway.
While his old teammates are still at Concordia, Ricky will not be forgotten on the Concordia field. Ricky wasn’t just an inspiration, he was an example. An example of how to play, how to act, and how to live. He is no longer here, but his friends and family are, and they will do the best they can to represent him. He was going to go all the way to the top, and he will, with every step that his loved ones go he’ll be right next to them.
Ricky Zieba, number nine, will never be forgotten because of every person he has touched. He never left any of the people he loved; he just found a better place to watch from.