Former Minnesota lineman Nick Connelly dies of cancer at 22

Former Minnesota offensive lineman Nick Connelly died Wednesday, four months after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Connelly, 22, started the first five games of 2017 for the Gophers before retiring from football midway through the season because of concussions.

Doctors in June diagnosed Connelly with Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Chuck Connelly, Nick's father, said via Twitter that his son's chemotherapy treatments were yielding positive results until recently.

"Heaven needed a right tackle and Nick Connelly got the call," his father wrote in a message posted online Thursday afternoon. "... Nick was a beautiful, big, strong young athlete with a very kind heart and a great smile."

Minnesota plans to memorialize Connelly with helmet stickers and wristbands during Saturday's game against Maryland.

"We are devastated to learn of the passing of Nick Connelly," coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. "He was an amazing young man who took exceptional pride in playing for the hometown Gophers and loved wearing the maroon and gold. Nick's family and friends are in our thoughts."