Boiler up! Thank you, Tyler, for your unending spirit

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Tyler Trent passed away Jan. 1, 2019, after inspiring, and being embraced by, the entire Purdue community.

WNLP column by Mike Kellems

Despite New Year’s Day bringing us the promise of new opportunities and the chance to turn a new leaf and pursue new resolutions, it was a sad day for many in Indiana. For those out there who are Purdue Boilermaker fans, or sports fans of any kind, or anyone who even remotely follows the news, you probably recognize the name Tyler Trent.

For the uninitiated, Tyler was a 20-year-old Purdue student who turned the Boiler Nation on its collective ear with his incredible story of survival. Tyler, from Carmel, Indiana, was a lifelong Purdue fan who hoped to be a sports journalist one day. In his young life Tyler had beaten cancer two times. Unfortunately, his rare form of bone cancer returned for a third time and ultimately claimed his life. But not before Tyler left his mark on the world — and on me.

At the urging of my good friend, former LaPorte Chief of Police and current Purdue Northwest Police Lieutenant Terry Scherer, I recently started working part time as a police officer at Purdue’s Westville campus. One of the “side gigs” is an opportunity to work football games at the West Lafayette campus. I’ve always been somewhat of a Boilermaker fan, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to see a few games. Before you know it, I was assigned to work my first game: Purdue v. Ohio State on Oct. 20, 2018.

As much as there was a buzz about this game, the buzz was even stronger about Tyler. With his undeniable passion for Purdue, this kid who’d been known to sleep in a tent outside the stadium so he could be the first inside on game day ( mind you, while he was undergoing chemotherapy ) had been taken under the collective wing of the entire Purdue family.

Tyler boldly predicted a Purdue victory over the No. 2 ranked Buckeyes in that game. He was named a team captain and watched the game from Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ suite. Even more astounding, a tradition at Ross Ade was changed in honor of Tyler. Every time there is a kickoff, the Purdue faithful, as the ball is sailing through the air, shouts “IU Sucks!”. No matter the opponent, it is what they do. In that Oct. 20 game, that long-held tradition was changed to “Cancer Sucks!”

So as we all know, Tyler was right. Purdue upset Ohio State quite handily, 49-20. My assignment for the end of the game, anticipating that the crowd would rush the field, was to team up with 10 other police officers and protect the goal post at the south end of the stadium.

While making my way along the sidelines, I happened to see Tyler. He was in a wheelchair, surrounded by family, friends and the media, and bundled up under several layers due to the cold. My gut told me I had to say something. So I broke ranks with the other officers, walked over to Tyler and said, “You’re a great young man. God bless you!” As I started to walk away, he worked his arm from under the layers and with an incredibly bright smile and a spark in his eye, we did a fist bump.

It is easy in this world, for a multitude of reasons, to become jaded. It is even easier to fall victim to the “woe is me” attitude. In the many media accounts of Tyler’s incredible last year, I learned that his passion for the Boilermakers was only outdone by his passion to help rid the world of cancer, so that no one would ever have to go through what he suffered. Despite his terminal condition, Tyler underwent an extremely painful procedure so that the cancer cells that had invaded his body could be extracted, studied, and hopefully would lead to a cure; he was that committed.

The more I read, the more I came to learn that Tyler truly wanted to make an impact on the world. I would encourage you to Google his name; read just a few of the stories. Judge for yourself whether or not he accomplished this goal. I, for one, will work diligently in the future, anytime there is a temptation to fall into the “woe is me” attitude, to avoid that and look for the positives, the places where I can make  difference. That isn’t a New Years resolution, that is a lesson I learned from Tyler.

Thank you, Tyler, for teaching this old dog a new trick and prodding me to remember what matters most. Rest easy in God’s arms.

3 Responses to “Boiler up! Thank you, Tyler, for your unending spirit”

  1. John and Mary Jo Pflum

    Jan 04. 2019

    Former Slicer Fans and now Lafayette residents, we became very familiar with Tyler Trent and his journey. He was an inspiration to all, young and old. Amazing a college town that has students with the possibilities to get involve in so much, some good and bad, collectively came together to love and support this young man. It has made John and I to appreciate this 20 something generation. Tyler brought out the best in all of us.
    I was fortunate to be at Mackey Arena last night and the tribute and standing ovation for Tyler brought tears to many, including myself.
    Boiler Up

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  2. Shannon

    Jan 04. 2019

    Thank you Tyler. Boiler up!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Don

    Jan 05. 2019

    Tyler is an inspiration to us all! I cried when we beat OSU because I was so happy for him! I’m crying also as I type this! What a great courageous young man gone too soon! Let’s help Tyler and all the other loved ones we know fighting cancer! Donate to cancer research! Have a positive attitude! Thank the Lord for every day! Cancer Sucks! Boiler Up!!!

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