Linfield College alumnus Bruce Assily '00, one of only a handful of four-time all-conference honorees in football, died accidentally while underwater spearfishing near Waikiki, Hawaii. Assily, 36, was diving for fish below the water's surface in the early morning hours of Jan. 24 about 50 yards offshore. He lost a swim fin and struggled against the tricky ocean currents. The friend he was fishing with managed to pull him to shore where paramedics performed CPR. He died later that morning at a local hospital.
Assily, who played defensive end for the Wildcats from 1996 until 1999, earned all-conference recognition each of his four seasons and is considered one of the most dominant players at his position in program history.
A four-year starter, he recorded 16 career sacks among his 40 total tackles for loss. Perhaps more significant than his football accomplishments, Assily will be remembered for his larger-than-life personality.
“Few people can literally fill a room with energy and spirit by themselves. Bruce Assilly could,” said football coach Joseph Smith, who was Linfield's defensive line coach during Assily's four seasons. “When Bruce touched foot into a building, you knew he had arrived. You could hear him a mile away with that infectious laugh that he would double over and bubble forth with. His joy and lust for life infected, and affected, everyone around him.
“Bruce rarely was quiet, he was always talking. He was hilarious,” said Smith. “Not only was he incredibly witty, he was relentless. His spirit lifted you up.”
Assily's positive attitude rubbed off on his teammates, who voted him as Linfield's Most Inspirational Player in 1999.
“During practice, Bruce would constantly lift the mood. And during games he poured his whole spirit out,” said Smith. “Bruce was the fastest learner and the most talented football player I have ever coached. There was nothing he could not do, it seemed. He was a true force of nature on the field, but it was off the field that I will always cherish the most.
“Bruce could sing, Bruce could dance, and Bruce could hit. He was tremendously loyal and someone that was your friend at first meeting. No one ever seemed to say a bad word about him and I know even his opponents must have shared a begrudging admiration for him. It was truly a privilege and honor to know and coach Bruce.”
A memorial service is set for Friday, Feb. 7, at Holy Trinity Church in Honolulu at 6 p.m. local time.