Cael Loecher is the starting punter for the Northern Iowa Panthers. The Cedar Falls native chose to stick around and play for his hometown team, taking a preferred walk-on offer over multiple scholarship offers and interest from other schools across Iowa and the midwest.

The former quarterback and punter for the Tigers was having a solid start to his redshirt freshman campaign at UNI, averaging 41.5 yards per punt with three punts of 50+ yards and four punts placed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He also made the transition from being a backup quarterback to receiver, doing anything he can to see the field more as a Panther.

After missing UNI's previous two contests, news surfaced that Loecher was fighting a different battle -- this time, off the gridiron.

As was initially reported by Jim Nelson of the Cedar Falls/Waterloo Courier, Loecher is battling an unknown illness and has been hospitalized. He's currently at the University of Iowa Hospitals.


Coach Mark Farley confirmed to the media after the UNI football game on Saturday that Loecher isn't in good shape:

Cael is very sick. I don't know what else I can say, but I will tell you we miss him. Hopefully we'll get him back sooner rather than later, but it won't be for a while.

According to the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, "he was diagnosed with a form of vasculitis — granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly known as Wegener’s granulomatosis) — which can be fatal."

According to the Mayo Clinic, "Granulomatosis with polyangiitis is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidneys. ... This condition is one of a group of blood vessel disorders called vasculitis. It slows blood flow to some of your organs. The affected tissues can develop areas of inflammation called granulomas, which can affect how these organs work."

Lisa, Cael's mother, told the paper the following:

The doctors consider him critically stable right now. ... (They) have put him in what they call paralyzed sedation, which allows his lungs to rest as much as possible.

He's had several blood transfusions and is currently on a ventilator that is helping him breathe.

In response to the illness and the difficulties he is going through, three of his friends came together to support him -- and you can, too.

Loecher's girlfriend Fiona Riordan as well as Sawyer Jacobson and Jaxon Heth are selling $5 bracelets that say 'Fight Like a Panther #TeamCael.' The $5 will go towards the medical bills Loecher and his family will face.

In order to purchase one of these bracelets and support the Loecher family, you can send your $5 to Fiona via Venmo. Her username is @fionariordan12. Additionally, you can follow the direct link to Fiona's Venmo account here.

The bracelets will be available for pickup at the UNI football game on October 22 against Missouri State. The game will take place at 4 PM in the UNI-Dome.

Lastly, if you'd like to send an encouraging message to Cael, you can go to his Twitter or Instagram accounts.

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