Cardiff City goalkeeper Alex Smithies says he used football as a distraction when his former Huddersfield team-mate Jordan Sinnott died earlier this year.
The Matlock Town player - who was also close friends with Cardiff striker Danny Ward - died after being attacked on a night out in January.
Smithies admits winning promotion would be a fitting tribute.
"We hope this season could be one we look back on and say we really paid tribute to him there," Smithies said.
Sinnott was found with a suspected fractured skull in Market Place, Retford, Nottinghamshire, in January.
Ward revealed a shirt bearing his friend's name and number following last weekend's winner at Bristol City, a result that put the sixth-placed Bluebirds three points clear of nearest rivals Derby County.
It was the first time Ward had scored since the incident and what Smithies admits was an "incredibly tough time".
"Sometimes you don't know how you're going to get through games and your mind is elsewhere," says Smithies, 30.
"But I think the distraction of football - and being around your team-mates, such as Wardy - helped.
"It's been tough for Dan; me and Jordan were both best men at Danny's wedding last summer.
"To have spent so much time together and involved in something like that so recently, to the position we're in now is quite unbelievable.
"With Jordan being a footballer himself, I'm sure he wanted us to carry on and do our best.
"He was someone who was so supportive of his friends, always checking the results to see if we were playing, if Danny had scored or I had kept a clean sheet.
"He was such a thoughtful person and he would have wanted us to continue and go on to have successful careers.
" Smithies admits Ward was determined to get a goal to "commemorate our friend" but expects him to continue to wear Sinnott's name and squad number as Cardiff seek to extend their post-lockdown form.
The pair had been involved in collating shirts with the same name and number from clubs from all corners of football.
"It's something that spiralled really," says Smithies.
"It started off when the family asked us to get hold of shirts from all of his previous teams and, before you knew it, we had around a thousand shirts.
"They were all on show at his funeral which was astonishing to see them all together.
" Former Queens Park Rangers keeper Smithies' aim is now to see himself and Ward together celebrating promotion at the end of this extended promotion season, with Cardiff having picked up three wins and a draw since the Championship's restart.
Smithies' own form has played its part, with the Bluebirds only conceding once in that time and taking his clean-sheet tally to 10 in 25 appearances after being given his chance by Cardiff manager Neil Harris in January.
Having ousted Neil Etheridge from the number one spot at Cardiff, Smithies says he has been keen to make the most of the opportunity to "show what I can do", but says his focus is on the team continuing their well-timed run of results after coming out of the enforced break refreshed.
"I don't want to get carried away because it's a short period of time with five massive games to go," he said ahead of Tuesday night's visit of 11th placed Blackburn Rovers.
"We are full of confidence but we're staying grounded because we know how big a task it's going to be to continue to win games and stay where we are.
"But we're ready for the challenge and in this short space of time you can throw everything at it and give it a proper go.