Super inspiration

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By Gerard Flanagan

In October at the College Football Awards Show in Atlanta, Tyler Trent received the Disney Spirit Award, an award given annually to the most inspiring coach, team, player or figure in college football. He was also awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor given to an Indiana civilian. Having followed his story, he was deserving of so much more.

Back in 2014, Trent was diagnosed with osteosarcoma after breaking his arm playing frisbee. It was his first of three battles with the rare bone cancer. Trent underwent chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free. Three years later, as a high school senior, the cancer came back in his pelvis, just four months before he was set to go to Purdue University on a Presidential Scholarship (he scored in the 1500’s on the SAT, with 1600 being the perfect mark).

He underwent more surgery and more pain. Yet, Trent was still determined to attend Purdue, which he did, earning an associate’s degree in computer information technology. He was also a passionate fan of the Purdue football team. In September of 2017, he underwent chemotherapy earlier in the day before traveling to camp out with his friend, Josh Seals, before Purdue’s game against Michigan.

Trent also predicted Purdue would upset No. 2 Ohio State, which they did in a 49-20 rout. He pledged to be there and was, weary but elated, down but not defeated.

The cancer came back a third time in March of 2018, this time in his lower spine, paralyzing him from the waist down and robbing him of any use of his left arm. In December, he penned a guest column to the Indianapolis Star, detailing his battle with cancer.

Yet, in the midst of this courageous battle he was fighting and despite the horrible pain he was feeling, Trent was grateful. Grateful to be alive. Grateful to watch football. Grateful for all the blessings in the storm.

“Though I am in Hospice care and have to wake up every morning knowing that the day might be my last, I still have a choice to make: to make that day the best it can be,” Tyler wrote in that guest column. “To make the most of whomever comes to visit, texts, tweets or calls me.”

Even as he battled cancer, he thought of others, forming the organization Teens With a Cause, which recruited kids to do chores for families affected by cancer, such as raking leaves, running errands and shoveling snow. Trent also volunteered with the Purdue Dance Marathon, which raises money for the Riley and the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. He donated the tissue from his tumor for research.

Tyler’s life was tragically cut short, as he passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 20. His story is one worth watching but it’s not just worth watching. It’s worth living by. Trent’s attitude in the darkest hour of his life is nothing short of inspiring. I never knew him, I never spoke to him, but his poise and maturity in his battle against cancer have deeply resonated with me. His story his inspired countless people and his impact has touched so many. Trent was an inspiration to so many who heard his story, and his death leaves a void in this world.