Tyler Trent has been on my mind today.
If you’re a Purdue fan it is likely you have heard Tyler’s story. If you’re not, settle in. He popped up on the Hammer & Rails radar a little over a year ago when he and a friend camped out at the student entrance to Ross-Ade Stadium before the Michigan game on September 23rd. This happens at campuses all over the country for big games, but it was Purdue’s first sellout in years. Tyler wanted a good seat and he would get it, as his crew was the only one camping.
Tyler had had a busy day that day. He had classes that morning, then drove to Indianapolis for a round of chemotherapy in the afternoon before returning to have dinner with the team and camp out.
Since then Tyler has been a Purdue celebrity. At the time he was battling Osteosarcoma for the second time. The first time he had it was when he was 15, and a shoulder strain turned out to be cancer. He had his shoulder and upper arm replaced before the cancer went into remission. It came back in April of last year, this time in his hip and pelvis. That led to more surgery and chemotherapy.
That didn’t stop him from starting his freshman year at Purdue last fall. He somehow juggled cancer treatments, freshman classes, and working for the Purdue Exponent while attending as many Purdue games as he could. I say Purdue games because he didn’t limit himself to just football and men’s basketball. He was all over the place. He went from the Bay Area for the Foster Farms Bowl to New York and Madison Square Garden for the Big Ten Tournament.
It looked like he had beaten cancer again, but it is a bastard. Despite having as many metal bones as Wolverine a third tumor developed in his back and was found in March during the NCAA Tournament. This fall he was limited to a wheelchair traveling around campus. It didn’t stop him though. He was still there, front and center as recently as two weeks ago when Purdue hosted Missouri.
He keeps working though. he has been the face of Riley Children’s Hospital in his battle. He has raised money through the Purdue dance marathon and with local high schools. He has used sports not just as a destraction, but also as a way to inspire in his fight.
This week brought bad news, however. Per a relative’s Twitter account, the tumor in his spine had grown to the point where his kidneys could no longer eliminate properly. He had emergency surgery on Thursday (he has had countless operations), but announced he came out of it. Then yesterday in the middle of Purdue’s game with Nebraska he dropped an announcement we had all been dreading:
update: I'm sad to say I will not be making it back to #Purdue. My health has taken a turn for the worse and the level of care I now need is too great. While I may not know how many days I have left, I'm trusting the one who does! #onlythestrong #boilerforlife #godsgotthis— Tyler Trent (@theTylerTrent) September 29, 2018
Since that announcement I have been thinking about Tyler a lot. It is hard to imagine what he has been dealing with in the past year, but through it all he has been more concerned with how he can help others. In one of his recent columns for the Exponent was about how Purdue could improve its accessibility for wheelchairs not just for him, but for any students that need it. In another recent tweet he was impressed that he was essentially a guinea pig for researchers, as they were using his tumor as a way to try and find a cure. He was elated that while he may not get through it, the research done on him might help others.
Somehow through this Tyler’s faith has never wavered even while his body has betrayed him. God has blessed him with prodigious gifts of wisdom, humility, and servitude. His humble nature his positively Christ-like. Instead of lamenting the hand he has dealt, he has always put forth that he is merely a servant and God should be glorified through the days he has been given. I honestly don’t know how he does it. I am almost twice his age and he has a maturity and faith well beyond anything I have. He continues to inspire even now, as the football team captains paid him a visit today and gave him a game ball from yesterday.
How do @BoilerFootball team captains spend their Sunday evening? They deliver the game ball, pray with and hang out with @theTylerTrent and his family! #OnlyTheStrong #BoilerUp #Tylerstrong pic.twitter.com/zCDXuwXoJx— Mark Walpole (@MarkAWalpole) September 30, 2018
Cancer is incredibly cruel. Six months ago it looked like he might be beating this. Now he is waylaid at home and somehow apologizing to us that he can’t return to classes. It is an amazing attitude he has. Matthew 20:28 says, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Tyler has lived that. He has served as an inspiration for many even at a time when we should be serving him. Dabo Swinney, Scott Van Pelt, Jeff Brohm, and Adrian Wojnaroski are among the many who have reached out to him and cited him as an inspiration. Coach Brohm even mentioned him in yesterday’s postgame presser before speaking about the game.
That is ultimately wanted to write this piece tonight. I wanted to put down some words that expressed my own gratitude for Tyler. I wanted him to see that he continues to inspire me even in his battle because of his humility. To me, that’s what humility is. It is serving even when your own situation is not the best. I have always tried to write as a fan, but Tyler has truly lived the past year as a fan. Purdue sports has been a much-needed distraction for him and I hope it continues to be. Tyler has inspired many of us for some time, so it is time for us to lift him up some.
We’re all pulling for you, Tyler. Let us do the fighting with you.