Kansas football manager Jack Roche died on July 11, late at night in his hometown after he was struck by a car as he crossed a busy road.
Roche, popularly known as “Coach Roche,” was going into his senior year and set to graduate next May. Roche attended Marist High School in Mount Greenwood, Illinois.
Roche started his career as a team manager well before his time with Kansas football. Chris Bohanek, a family friend of the Roches, remembers that when Roche was 12 years old he eagerly took on managing duties for his brother’s travel baseball team.
“[Jack] started videotaping our games, he would keep the scorebook, and he would do anything and everything because he loved being around sports,” Bohanek said. “He even put together DVDs for every family with a video of every kid during the course of the season … He didn’t have to do that but that was one of the awesome things about Jack, he was always about serving others.”
Roche then moved on to become a sports manager in high school, where he managed for the football, boy's basketball and baseball teams. Roche played a significant part of the varsity football team, which he managed all four years of his high school career.
Pat Dunne, Marist’s former varsity football coach, described Roche as the ultimate teammate and coach.
“That’s just who he was 24/7,” Dunne said. “There were times he would be in the office, and it didn’t matter if it was an early morning or a late game night, he would be there all night until everyone left and he’d be there in the mornings before anyone showed up. That’s how he lived his life, to always help others.”
Roche's fellow manager Ray Holmes, who graduated from Marist in 2016, remembers how great it was to manage with him and how infectious Roche's energy was.
“What made Jack special was every time you’re with him, it was a memory,” Holmes said. “His personality was so unique, he always lit up a room. His smile was contagious, his laugh was contagious. I think that's what made people fall in love with Jack."
"Every time they were with him it was always a new memory, a new story and a fun time," Holmes continued. "His personality is something that will continue to live with everyone he impacted.”
After Roche graduated from Marist in 2017, he headed to KU to start a career as a football equipment manager.
“Jack loved KU,” Dunne said. “I just talked to him not too long ago … He talked about the different stadiums he’d been to in the Big 12, and about the football players. It just seemed natural for him to be a part of the Kansas family.”
Luke Bullington, Roche's roommate at KU who also graduated from Marist, emphasized how involved Jack was with Kansas football's successes and failures.
“[Jack] would wear his Kansas football gear every single day head to toe and he wore it with pride,” Bullington said. “He was more upset when the team lost and happier than the players when they won.”
Bullington described how Roche would acknowledge his friends while he was on the field by “waving the wheat” to them once they found each other from a distance.
“Whenever we would go to the games we would always text him where he was at. And he’d look at his phone on the sidelines and he’d see us, and we’d always wave the wheat to each other,” Bullington said. “It was always pretty funny.”
Roche was adored by everyone he came around, including the Kansas football team.
“It was fun walking around campus with Jack,” Bullington said. “He was smaller his freshman and sophomore year, but he would always go and do these handshakes with these giant football players and they’d call him 'Coach Roche' by name. It was cool to see that they knew who he was.”
Roche's death was acknowledged by Jayhawks all around.
“The KU football family is heartbroken to hear of the passing of Jack Roche," Kansas football coach Les Miles wrote in a tweet. "Jack was a tremendous, hardworking young man who embodied what our program is all about. We will remember Jack and he will forever be a part of our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Roche’s.”
The KU football family is heartbroken to hear of the passing of Jack Roche. Jack was a tremendous, hard working young man who embodied what our program is all about. We will remember Jack and he will forever be a part of our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Roches.— Les Miles (@CoachLesMiles) July 12, 2020
Chancellor Douglas Girod shared his condolences in a statement to the Kansan.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jack Roche, who contributed to our community both as a student and through his work with our football team," Girod said. "On behalf of the entire university, I offer my deepest condolences to Jack’s family and friends and to all who knew him at KU.”
Through talking with Roche's friends, it's clear that he left an impact on everyone he interacted with, and that impact will live on forever.
“The biggest thing with Jack is that he was so humble, yet so hardworking and selfless,” Dunne said. “[Jack] was the best. I wholeheartedly mean that. And when I say the best, I mean the nicest human being, genuinely the nicest person out there.”
Roche is survived by his parents, John and Kim; his siblings, Patrick and Lilly; his grandparents, James and Joan Butler and Nancy Roche; and his aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.