D evastating news has hit the Chicago Bears family. It has been announced former Bears’ tight end Ryan Wetnight has passed away at the age of 49 on Friday, May 1, after losing his battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Stacey and their two sons, Scott and Zach. Bears in-house beat writer Larry Mayer broke the news on Twitter.
Wetnight spent eight seasons in the league, seven with Chicago and one with the Green Bay Packers. The Bears signed Wetnight as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford University in 1993, and he played with the team until 1999, starting 19 games while playing in 91 during that time. In his seven seasons with the Bears, Wetnight caught 172 passes for 1,522 yards and nine touchdowns.
Ryan Wetnight Had Been Battling Cancer Since 2017
Wetnight first learned he had cancer in 2017, and he detailed the story of how he and his family learned about his diagnosis to NBC Sports last fall when he was still fighting the disease. He battled Stage 4 gastric cancer for a year before being declared cancer free in January of 2019.
“I was having a hard time swallowing … food, drinks. This was October of 2017,” Wetnight said last fall when remembering his initial symptoms. “So I go to the doctor and they do an endoscopy, where they go down through the throat. And they find a mass that is in the upper portion of my stomach that is pushing into the esophagus … the lower portion of the esophagus, which was pinching off of the esophagus. So every time I was eating or swallowing something, it would get to that point and it would get stuck or slowly try to pass that point of impingement,” Wetnight detailed.
“So it took a while, but eventually they diagnosed it with cancer. And then 2018 was difficult. I think I was in the operating room 10 times. And I went through eight rounds of chemo, fairly toxic chemo treatment. Long story short, I battled all the way through 2018 to get through all of these different procedures, multiple stays in the hospital, all the chemo treatments. They ended up removing the upper portion of my stomach and the lower portion of my esophagus and then tying it back together.”
Wetnight returned to coaching high school football, serving as an assistant coach at Grace Brethren High, when his cancer returned. His doctors found an inoperable tumor in his stomach that was too close to his spine to remove in the fall of 2019.
He spent five years as an assistant coach at Grace Brethren, and had been coaching under Mike Sanders at Thousand Oaks High prior to that. He was also a licensed realtor in the state of California, and he started his own real estate firm in addition to coaching high school ball.
One of Wetnight’s former teammates, former Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle, replied to Meyer’s tweet, saying: “Didn’t know he was sick. He was a talented player and a very good guy. Horrible news.”
Our thoughts are with Wetnight’s family and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.