Teens & Young Adults

Remembering Asaph ‘Ace’ Schwapp: A Big Man With a Bigger Heart

by Rebecca Bernot, St. Baldrick's Foundation
February 5, 2015

When Asaph Schwapp — known to many as “Ace” — passed away from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, his friend and Notre Dame football teammate vowed to do something big to honor him. And so the Tough as Ace Hero Fund was born. Learn more about St. Baldrick’s Hero Funds.

Ace's friends flex in their Tough as Ace jerseys bearing Ace's football jersey number at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Ace’s friends competed in a triathlon to raise money for childhood cancer research in honor of Ace. Their jerseys bear Ace’s football jersey number.

Mike Anello still remembers his first encounter with Asaph Schwapp. It was Mike’s first football practice as a freshman at Notre Dame University and he was running down the football field, headed toward the small spot between Ace and another equally hulking player ready to block him.

“Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well for me,” Mike recalled.

He laughed, remembering the friend he’d come to know well over the next several years. “He was the first one to knock you out, but he’d pick you right back up with a smile on his face and say, ‘Hey, are you alright?’”

That’s just the kind of guy Ace was.

Asaph Schwapp playing football in high school

Ace’s skills on the football field in high school won him a spot on the Notre Dame University football team.

He was also the kind of guy who refused to let a cancer diagnosis get the best of him. He was 25 when he learned he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and the whole time he was in treatment, you’d never have known he was sick.

“Looking at him, you would have thought that chemo was just a walk in the park, because he would literally drive himself to the hospital for chemo, then drive himself to the weight room,” said Ace’s older brother Andrew, adding that Ace easily bench pressed 300 pounds and squatted a hefty 500 even in the thick of his treatment.

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At 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, Ace was hard to miss wherever he went. But while he was always noticed for his size, he was loved for his heart.

“He just had a passion for others,” Mike said. “Any conversation you had with him, 100% of his attention was devoted to you. He just wanted to know what he could do to make your day better.”

Mike remembers attending a St. Baldrick’s event with Ace at Notre Dame University and watching the children gravitate toward his enormous friend, immediately drawn to his smile, laugh, and downright lovable nature. None of that came as a surprise to Andrew, who remembers how, even when he was young, Ace could always hold a conversation with anyone. “Whether you were a child or an adult, if you’d come across Asaph, it was hard not to like him because he was such a genuine and charming individual,” he said.

Ace with his older brothers, Alvin and Andrew Schwapp

Ace (left) with older brothers Alvin and Andrew (right).

But Ace always had a soft spot for kids. Andrew recalled how he doted on his nieces and nephews, and how they likewise adored their Uncle Asaph. “Asaph loved children. They were his passion,” Andrew said. “I remember finding out that the chemo he was taking would have ended his chances of having kids, and that hurt me so bad because I knew Asaph would’ve been the best father in the world.”

It was because of Ace’s selflessness that when Mike learned of his passing in May 2013, Mike was moved to do something big. And so the Tough As Ace Hero Fund was born.

Last year, there were four St. Baldrick’s events held in memory of Ace, collectively raising nearly $100,000 for childhood cancer research. Each one was an opportunity for those who loved Ace to give back to a cause Ace would’ve loved to have been a part of.

“It’s helping to keep his memory alive,” Andrew said. “And that means the world to me and my family.”

For Mike, the best part was getting to hear the many great stories about Ace from all the people who came out to honor him. “I think that one of the best quotes came from a buddy of mine who said that Ace had arms the size of legs, legs the size of tree trunks, but a heart that couldn’t even be quantified.”

For all who were lucky enough to have met him, that’s how Asaph Schwapp will be remembered.

Learn more about Ace’s legacy on the Tough as Ace Hero Fund page.

Tough as Ace

Read more about St. Baldrick’s Hero Funds: