No. 54: Kent home opener dedicated to athlete who died unexpectedly

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KENT, Ohio -- The Kent State University Golden Flashes spent Saturday's home opener focused on one teammate: Jason Bitsko.

The 21-year-old died earlier this month unexpectedly, and he was in the hearts and minds of everyone at the team's first football game of the season.

There was a tribute in the air as the Kent State Aviation Team had a pregame flyover in a Missing Man formation in Bitsko's honor.

On the field, it was all about No. 54.

"We're all a family, we all stick together," said Marquiez Lawrence, a sophomore at the university.

The number was thought of as a symbol on Saturday. Bitsko died of an undetermined medical issue, according to the university.

Bitsko would have been starting his fourth year on the football team. On Saturday night, he would have been playing on the field at Dix Stadium as the starting center.

His spirit was felt throughout the game against Ohio University. Each player had the number 54 on their helmet. Fans wore '54' stickers.

"I love the support, we've got stickers everywhere," said Tommy Zeigler, a student.

"Every player on this field right now feels his presence," said longtime friend, Amelia Chamberlain.

The support meant so much for friends like her.

"That's why we drove four hours today, why I think a million people are out here wearing 54 today is because his spirit touched so many people, he'll always be here," she said.

For much more on Jason Bitsko, click here.

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