Tyler Trent died from a rare form of bone cancer on New Year’s Day, 2019. He was 20 years young. Tyler Trent was a student at Purdue University; a Boilermaker, possibly like none other. Some called him a superfan, others called him courageous, and still others called him amazing. I call him inspiring; even through his passing, he’s making a positive impact in this world.
The last five years of Trent’s life were a series of ups and downs that would have probably stopped most of us in our tracks; but not Trent. When he was still in high school, Trent broke his arm while playing Frisbee. During the treatment, his physician discovered the cancer which led to surgery to replace the upper portion of his arm bone, followed by nine grueling months of chemo therapy. Luck seemed to be on Trent’s side and his cancer went into remission; during that time he received a scholarship to Purdue University. Yet, the excitement of attending a Big Ten school was quickly dampened as the cancer returned; this time forcing the young man to have major surgery to replace his pelvic bone in August; less than two weeks before the start of his Freshman year.
Showing a level of fortitude unlike that usually seen in someone so young, Trent made it to his first day of classes. During his time at Purdue, he developed a bond with the University through it’s athletics; especially the football team. Team coach Jeff Brohm remembered seeing Tyler for the first time prior to the Boilermaker’s first home game in 2017 when he camped outside of the stadium dressed from head to toe in the familiar black and gold colors of the university. His relationship with the team and players grew but so did the cancer, and when it spread to his spinal column, he was forced to leave school and return home to convalesce. Although gone, he was not forgotten by several of the players who had become his close friends as they made a trip to visit him and give him the game ball from a recent victory over rival Nebraska and more importantly, to pray with Tyler.
The visit seemed to renew his strength, and with the support of his family, he made the trip to attend the last home game of the season against Ohio State. Despite the looming possibility that this would be his last trip to Purdue, or perhaps anywhere else, the only thing the superfan could talk about was his team winning the game. Fans learned he wanted to be a sportswriter and that he had a unique way of looking at things from a different perspective than other writers; a trait that seemed to carry across his entire life. He was profiled in a feature media segment that morning and his story was broadcasted to millions of television fans. The Boilermaker’s pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year and defeated the Buckeyes and Tyler Trent became a reluctant celebrity.
During the next few months, Tyler was sought out by former NFL players, coaches, MVP’s and even the Vice President of the United States; all who wanted to help him and share in his inspiration. Tyler was also given several awards for his bravery, but rather than sink into self-pity, he used the time to speak with people about his cancer; generating more than $100,000.00 for research and the Tyler Trent Cancer Endowment. He refused to surrender one inch and in the process taught those around him kindness, awareness, and how they could play a part in really helping the world to eradicate childhood cancer. To date, his efforts have been attributed to helping raise untold millions for future research.
Tyler also became an honorary team Captain for the Boilermaker’s and was honored by going to midfield with the other team Captains for the pregame coin toss in the Music City Bowl, Friday December 28th. Sadly, four days later Tyler passed into the great unknown. No words can ever fully tell the story of Tyler’s life or his impact on those he touched in one way or another. He never lost sight of what was important, he never gave up, and he left this world a better place than it was when he arrived.
A young man I never knew
Touched my soul
Renewed my hope
Warmed my heart
Gave us all,
An inner awakening
In the face of adversity
When surrounded by fear
Words of a leader
Actions of a prophet
Farewell young hero
In a better place
Gone but not forgotten
Echoes of his smiling face
Trapped in falling tears
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