Brett Snyder was a rugged, tough football player who was beloved by coaches and teammates at Northwestern Lehigh High School and Lehigh University, where he was a key figure as a fullback on Mountain Hawks’ Patriot League championship teams in the 1990s.
But Snyder’s fierce competitiveness on the field was eclipsed by his determination, passion and fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS.
Snyder was diagnosed with the disease for which there is no cure in 2003 and given 18 months to live.
He refused to give in and continued to fight for himself and his growing family while pursuing hope for others dealing with ALS.
On Sunday night, Snyder’s fight ended. He died at the age of 41.
“The world lost a great human being last night,” said an emotional Northwestern Lehigh Athletic Director Jason Zimmerman on Monday. “Great, not in the statistics he put up at Northwestern Lehigh and Lehigh University, but great in the man that he was. So many kids in our community looked up to him. Was he awesome on the field, without a question, but he was such a kind, compassionate, caring man.”
Snyder’s brother, Josh, is also a former Northwestern Lehigh and Lehigh University football standout and the Tigers head football coach.
Even as ALS forced him into a wheelchair and later required him to breathe with a ventilator, eat through a feeding tube and use an eye gaze feature on his tablet to communicate, Brett Snyder never gave up and attended as many sporting events as he could.
“Throughout his fight with ALS, when his health and the weather permitted, he was there on a Friday night supporting his beloved Tigers and his brother as their leader,” Zimmerman said. “After a long week of work, I would always look forward and was always hopeful I would get the text or call from Josh asking if Gary [Snyder’s father] could bring Brett to the game and park the van inside the stadium.
“It brings tears to my eyes that those calls and texts will now have ended with the last one coming Saturday, Nov. 10 of last year, the day we played Saucon Valley in the District 11 semifinals.”
Zimmerman said that Snyder’s story didn’t just resonate at Northwestern or Lehigh, but it touched lives throughout the Lehigh Valley, especially within the Colonial League, the league in which Northwestern Lehigh competes.
“My colleagues were always quick and more than willing to make accommodations so that Brett could see the game,” Zimmerman said. “Brett was just as much the Colonial League’s as he was Northwestern Lehigh’s. He just impacted so many people in such a positive way.”
Josh Snyder appreciated having his brother around as much as possible.
“It’s tough losing an older brother, especially one with the quality and character that Brett had,” Josh Snyder said. “He has touched so many people above and beyond athletics. That’s one of the great things about athletics. You can use it as a platform to touch so many lives and Brett certainly did that. So many people today have told me that Brett was such a role model to them and these were our classmates and teammates.”
Josh credited his parents for instilling values and quality traits in their children and added, “Brett took it to a different level.”
In recent years, Brett, his wife Carissa and their four children — all under the age of 9 — moved back to New Tripoli to be next to Brett’s father.
At Northwestern, Brett Snyder set the single-season records for rushing with 2,376 yards and touchdowns with 33 in 1995 when he helped the Tigers share the Colonial League title and win the District 11 Class 2A crown.
He finished his career with 4,281 yards and 49 touchdowns, both Tigers records. But his coach, Bob Mitchell, said his value went well beyond stats.
“He was one of the finest human beings you’d ever want to meet,” Mitchell said. “He was a warrior on the field, but a true gentleman off it. I told him many times that I felt so fortunate that our life paths crossed. Brett made me a better person.”
In a 2017 interview with The Morning Call, Carissa said their oldest children, sons Tate and Luke, were just like their father.
“They are mini-Bretts,” she said. “Brett and I have determined personalities and we have two sons who share that same determined personality.”
Through the years, many fundraisers were held. One connected Snyder with the Bo Tkach Foundation. Bo Tkach, a Northern Lehigh football standout, committed suicide in July 2007. He was 25.
“Brett was the bravest person I knew,” said Bo’s father and former Northern Lehigh football coach Jim Tkach. “After Bo died, Brett called us and asked me to meet him and some friends for breakfast. He proposed the flag games with Northwestern and Northern Lehigh that to this day still exist as the Mountain Road Rumble [the annual Northern Lehigh-Northwestern game]. How could someone who was hurting as much as he was think of helping someone else? But he wanted to do something for his friend Bo.”
Tkach, perhaps expressing the feelings of many, said he’s very sad, but thankful for getting a chance to know such a special person.
“But how fortunate was I to know such a brave man,” he said. “How fortunate I am to have Brett as Bo’s friend. There are heroes among us and he is one. The impact his entire family has had on people is amazing. I can still see his dad and mom at the events. With them, there was always a kind word, never a complaint. Simply, Brett was a stud. He was a tough, quiet guy whose legacy will go on forever.”
In the 2017 interview with The Morning Call, Brett Snyder expressed his deep faith in God and love of family. He also expressed what he wanted most for his children.
“I want them to realize what’s truly important in life,” he said. “Faith and family are big for us. They have always been and always will be. Most of the other things in life aren’t important. When you can’t do anything else, you have a lot of time to think about what’s important. And now I do know what’s really important in life.”
Article Source: www.mcall.com