As college students, we have our entire lives in front of us. It is both frightening and riveting at the same time.
The world is truly our oyster.
Former Sheffield United midfielder Maddy Cusack was in the same boat. 27 years old. A club legend. The vice-captain heading into what looked to be a promising campaign for her side. On September 20, 2023, a little over a month until her 28th birthday, the player with over 100 appearances for the Blades was pronounced dead, just like that—no warning signs whatsoever. Nobody knows how it happened to this point. Just weeks before this occurred, she was seen joking around with her teammates during media day in United’s new kits.
Some claim it was numerous medical issues that she experienced throughout 2023, but nothing has been confirmed. Police have stated that the circumstances of her death were not suspicious. Only time will tell if that is true.
Cusack, a beloved member of the Sheffield United community, was the marketing executive for the club in addition to being a footballer. Her name was ingrained into the city of Sheffield. She was like family. A mere few months ago, Cusack had expressed that Sheffield was “her home” upon putting pen to paper on a new contract. In the weeks since her passing, clubs around the country and the United Kingdom have paid their respects to Cusack’s family and friends in addition to the club as a whole. Black armbands have been a theme around the world of women’s football. The ways in which each club has honored the former United No. 8 has been special.
Saturday, October 7 was the first Barclays Women’s Championship match for the Blades since the Cusack news was announced. After going down a goal to London City Lionesses in the first 45 minutes, United rallied in the second half, netting three goals to cap off an inspiring display in honor of one of the greatest to ever don the red and white stripes.
Her friend and teammate Sophie Barker paid tribute to Cusack in the club’s pre-game program.
“What you meant to me, the girls and the club I would find hard to summarize into any words. The laughs, the terrible nicknames, the passion, the energy, and most of all the pure love you had for us all will never be replaced.”
She continued, “Within football, we will continue to carry your legacy through every day. We will work tirelessly as a team to make you proud. You have been one of the best Sheffield United Women players to have graced the pitch and we will not allow that to be forgotten.”
Those are just the words of one person. Even the most dialed-in football fans who did not know who Cusack was before this tragedy have realized the amount of people she has impacted. Her ability to make a positive impression upon the first encounter with her was a constant theme. No. 8 carried herself with such grace on and off the pitch. As a fan of the game, I cannot imagine even weeks after what the entire club is experiencing. Not only on the women’s side but the men’s as well. Nobody has had a bad thing to say. To be able to have such a legacy despite the limited time she had is a testament to the person she was.
So, why am I telling you this sad story? One is because the sports media world in the United States has failed us when it comes to women’s sports coverage. The second is, this should serve as a reminder for all of us here at Wheaton. Be where your feet are. We are all trying to get somewhere, but the reality is there is a road that is required to get to that “somewhere”. Discover your passion, whatever it may be, and run with it. Don’t forget to embrace the people you meet along the way. That’s what Maddy did.