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For Torrey Pines’ Dylan Friedland, football was a haven when he lost his best friend - his dad

Torrey Pines High football player Dylan Friedland has found his coaches and teammates to be invaluable since his dad's death.
(Bill Wechter/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Dr. Danny Friedland died the night Falcons played rival La Costa Canyon last year. The Falcons meet LCC on Thursday, and Dylan Friedland will be on the field with his friends

The night of Oct. 29, 2021 — hours after Torrey Pines High beat archrival La Costa Canyon, claiming the surf board awarded to the winning football team — Falcons wing back Dylan Friedland’s best friend passed away.

The fact that friend was Dylan’s father — 56-year-old Dr. Danny Friedland — has left an indelible impression on Dylan, his family and the Torrey Pines community.

“I have him in my heart, think of him every day,” Dylan said. “People say it gets easier with time. They’re wrong. For me, it gets harder every day.

“I never imaged I’d be without my hero.”

Dr. Danny Friedland, a distinguished motivational speaker, was diagnosed with glioblastoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer — on Nov. 11, 2020.

Life expectancy after diagnosis is 15 months.

“Dad was on the phone with a client and couldn’t get the words out,” Dylan said. “That client told him to go to the hospital. He got an MRI and it revealed the tumor.”

Danny Friedland had surgery on Oct. 6, 2021.

“And it went downhill from there,” Dylan said. “He couldn’t walk or talk. He could only say ‘yes’. So it was hard to communicate.”

A week later, Dylan said, “I love you” were his father’s last words.

Torrey Pines coach Robby Collins said football was Dylan’s outlet.

For a few hours a day, football was where Dylan could be with friends and teammates and take his mind off his father.

“I get teary-eyed talking about this because Dyl is one of the most exceptional young men I have ever had the opportunity to coach,” Collins said. “We were in distance learning when Dr. Friedland was diagnosed. So it was difficult to physically support Dyl. We couldn’t reach out and give him a hug. So with COVID, football was his outlet.

“Still, we walked a fine line. It was a 12-month roller coaster ride of emotions. Dyl and his father were extremely close.”

What made things worse on the night Dr. Friedland passed, Collins said, was that Dylan had a sprained ankle and couldn’t play against La Costa Canyon.

Torrey Pines (3-6, 2-3) hosts La Costa Canyon (5-4, 3-2) Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7:15 p.m. in an Avocado League game.

Despite an ankle injury and playing with a screw in his wrist from an early season injury, Friedland will play.

Both teams will make the Division I playoffs.

“Dyl isn’t a great player, but he’s a good high school football player, a major contributor,” Collins said of Friedland, a runner and receiver in Torrey Pines’ Wing-T offense who has 44 carries for 203 yards and a pair of TDs this season. “He’s a senior captain, and he has carried on his father’s style of leadership.

“Dyl is universally loved.”

Senior lineman Andy Livingston and senior receiver, defensive back and punter Max Griffiths are Friedland’s best friends.

Livingston is especially close to his father, Matt, who has served Torrey Pines as athletic director and baseball coach and is a prominent figure on campus.

“I really can’t relate to death,” Andy Livingston said. “It’s an unimaginable loss. It’s heartbreaking.

“It would have been easy for Dyl to quit, but he wants to live life like his father wanted. All we can do as Dyl’s friends is support him, lift him up, be positive.

“Dr. Danny was a great man.”

Dr. Danny Friedland was born in South Africa, where he played cricket and tennis. He fled the country to escape apartheid and found his way to the United States. He earned a BS from the University of Cape Town and graduated from the UC San Francisco School of Medicine in 1992. He did his post-doctoral fellowship and residency at UCSF.

He was a noted author, keynote speaker and executive coach, delivering more than 1,500 programs to more than 75,000 healthcare and business professionals globally.

“Andy and I know Dyl well enough to look at his face and know it’s not the right time to say anything,” Griffiths said. “His father’s death is still a touchy thing. Dyl’s emotions come in waves. The smallest thing might trigger something and his emotions come out.

“I’ve never experienced anything like Dyl is going through. So it’s hard because we want to support him, but we know at times he needs his space.

“He’s the man of the house now. So there is a lot on his shoulders.”

Friedland’s 23-year-old brother, Zach, graduated from Torrey Pines and UC Santa Barbara. A lacrosse player in high school, he had a chance to play at Georgetown, but had suffered a concussion and didn’t want to risk further injury. Zach now works lives in Los Angeles and works in the financial field.

That leaves Dylan and his mother Sue at home.

“I’m getting close to making a choice on college,” Dylan, who carries a 4.21 GPA, said. “I’d like to major in business and eventually start my own business.”

Dr. Danny Friedland’s message was, “Live a Loving Life.”

To get his father’s message out, Dylan is selling shirts, which are available at livealovinglife.shop.

“I don’t want to leave my mother home alone, so I’m looking at San Diego State and UCLA,” Dylan said. “She says she’s OK, and I need to make the best choice for me. I think I have good options close to home.”

Home for Dylan and Dr. Danny was Torrey Pines State Beach, where they enjoyed hiking and playing football.

“We were playing football on the beach the night before his surgery,” Dylan said. “There was a lady taking photos on the beach and I asked her if she shot anything of us.

“She looked, but couldn’t find anything. Two weeks later, she sent a photo of us together on the beach.”

That photo, as well as his last moments with his father, will be a lasting memory for Dylan.

“One of the hardest things was the night he passed,” Dylan said. “I didn’t get to play, but I was excited for the team. So I went home to tell my dad, but he was asleep.

“Normally, I’d kiss him goodnight. But I didn’t that night because I knew if I kissed him, it would be saying goodbye.

“By not saying goodbye, I know he’ll always be with me. And we’ll be together again.”


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