“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
There was something different about Tyler Trent. It wasn’t just his compassion, his care, his joy, or his ambition, but it was his desire to make an impact and leave a smile when he was facing the worst imaginable situation. As he was dying, he was giving everyone life. As he fought each and every day for his life, he inspired the nation to fight with him.
Born in Carmel, Indiana, Tyler always had big dreams and exciting ambitions. He was going to Purdue University on a Presidential scholarship and had the world ahead of him. That was before cancer cancelled his plans. Following a first fight with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer), it had returned after 2 years of remission. Terminal. Tyler’s dad, Tony, said he was angry the second time around. “I couldn’t understand why God would ask us to go through it again. I remember I didn’t want to go to church, I didn’t want to sing worship songs.” As Tyler and his family began to try and adjust to the news, Tyler decided that this time around he would use his cancer for God’s glory. Tyler decided that cancer was not going to defeat him. Instead he used it as an opportunity to change the world, and he did.
It was a big game between Ohio State and Purdue. It was a crisp night, October 20, 2018. Purdue was the underdog against a powerhouse, undefeated Ohio State team. College Gameday featured a segment on Tyler Trent before the game and shared his story. Suddenly, Purdue had the entire nation behind him. Maria Taylor, host for College Gameday, shared the experience saying, “I remember when we got our schedule and we thought, ‘why are we doing Ohio State-Purdue for an ABC primetime game at Purdue?’ And I look back on it now and know it was all part of God’s plan. Every single second of it. He orchestrated the feature on College GameDay about Tyler, Tyler being alive to see the game, and I saw that God works through college football, He can work through anything. He can work through the Purdue Boilermakers, and He did.” Purdue went on to win the game 49-20 and pull off one of the most inspirational and moving victories in sports history. Everyone wanted what Tyler had. Except his cancer.
It continued to eat away at him. As Tyler relished his newfound fandom and continued to share his faith with the world, his body was deteriorating. He was given the Disney Spirit Award for all the lives he changed, and so many were moved by his story. But it was less than a month later, on January 1, 2019, that Tyler Trent took his last breath and entered into God’s Kingdom. Although he is no longer with us physically, his spirit still lives on. Gregg Doyel, a sports writer for the Indianapolis Star, got to know Tyler well. He says it was Tyler who changed his entire outlook on life. “He showed me unbelievable courage and strength in the face of truly tragic circumstances. There are times I’ll feel badly for myself, or down, and I remember Tyler’s strength and courage and tell myself to get going. If he can do THAT … I can do this. Whatever this is.”
Tyler’s life impacted the entire Purdue community, and soon the entire nation. Purdue President, Mitch Daniels, shared how Tyler’s life impacted him more than anyone could know. “Here at Purdue we speak often of our hope and our ambition that our graduates throughout their lives will leave footprints. No Boilermaker ever left greater footprints or an imprint on all the rest of us than Tyler Trent. The example he has left us of faith and character and courage is one that most of us will never be able to replicate but we’ll always venerate and hope now and then to emulate.” Those feelings were shared by the rest of the Purdue football team as well. QB Aidan O’Connell, who was the 4th string at the time, didn’t know Tyler personally. But he says Tyler still inspired him so much. “When I hear Tyler’s name, I think of impact. Tyler impacted so many people when he was here on Earth, and is continuing to inspire even though he’s gone Home to rest. His impact is everlasting and is still something that people are talking about, and that people will be talking about for years to come.”
Another impacted by Tyler and his story was captain Kirk Barron. With the other captains he went and prayed with Tyler after a big win earlier in the year, and Kirk was immediately impacted by Tyler. “Honestly to me Tyler was the epitome of being a boilermaker, he fought a horrible disease while keeping the people around him uplifted. When I had my chance to meet him and share his story he became an instant role model to me. Before the Ohio State game when I saw his ESPN segment it really hit me that what I do on this field is bigger than me. I think that lesson taught me to be unselfish about the game of football and that I am representing more than myself when I put on the jersey!”
Tyler’s father, Tony Trent, is so proud of the impact that his son made. “Tyler’s faith has shown me so much. It showed me a lot about leadership. It brings a lot of encouragement and hope to me. God puts it all in our hearts to know that there is more to this life than what we see on this earth. To see how Tyler’s life has impacted so many people, it just taught me a lot.” Even in the worst imaginable situation, Tyler managed to smile. He continued to fight, and he continued to share his faith. It inspired his father to continue to share that same message. “When I have a bad day I think about what he had to go through. He was a special kid. There is no doubt in my mind that we saw a miracle that night against Ohio State. It was so incredible, we were the last people to leave, we couldn’t leave, we were so excited. It was an opportunity to forget the pain and the sorrow that we were going through.”
Although Tyler’s physical body is no longer on this earth, his story continues to live on. He released a book called “The Upset” soon before he passed, and the book has become an inspiration for so many. In the book, Tyler uses his words to inspire and encourage others to use their gifts to make a change. Since it’s release, the book has won awards such as being named a recipient of the Readers’ Favorite Book Award, and one of Book Authority’s Best American Biography Books of All Time, one of their Best College Football Books of All Time, and one of their Best Sports Books of All Time. Tyler’s legacy continues to live on and inspire so many throughout the world. One of the most special awards Tyler received too was the Stuart Scott Enspire Award, given to him posthumously, and named after one of Tyler’s heroes. Stuart Scott inspired the world with his heart for change in the midst of trying circumstances, and Tyler did his best to replicate that in his own life. This award recognized Tyler for making a positive impact throughout the world using the power of sports. It was special to Tyler and a reminder of all the good that was coming out of such a difficult time.
As Tyler Trent watches from above, he continues to motivate everyone to live their lives for others and something greater than themselves. Although he had a great story to tell, he always wanted to hear your story first. His impact on this earth will be felt by generations to come. Gregg Doyel knows that Tyler is gone, but is so proud to have known him and the difference he had. “I think of a beautiful young man who impacted the world through courage and strength and humility. I think of the power of faith. And I think: You did it, Tyler. You wanted your life, and your death, to make a difference. And you did it, you little …”
Tyler’s life and legacy has inspired so many throughout the world. Listed below are more comments left by those moved by Tyler and his story.
“Throughout his battle with cancer, Tyler never allowed his circumstances to dictate his mission, attitude and purpose. He shared his story with the world so that we could all listen. He inspired millions with hope and through that he was able to fulfill the mission God assigned to him. Tyler showed us how to live life to its fullest. How to never, ever give up and how to trust God in everything. Tyler’s legacy lives on through his story, through his parents, through his brothers and through everyone who was lucky enough to know him. His faith in the Lord is what will always inspire me. I was one of the lucky ones who knew Tyler and because of that, he changed my life. Tyler Trent was a God-send to us all.” -Matt Overton, Tennessee Titans
“Tyler brought such inspiration to many and the football team certainly felt it. There was a unique unity of heart and mind between Tyler and the whole team. The night we beat OSU, Tyler was wheeled into the locker room after the game. The guys went wild seeing him, but the greatest and most memorable thing that stays with me was when Coach Brohm called me up to gather us all around Tyler to pray for him as a team. That was amazingly special!” -Marty Dittmar, Purdue University Chaplain
“Tyler was a great role model and you could talk to him about anything. He was extremely smart, and would help anyone who needed it. He gave me unforgettable memories that I will always cherish!” -Ethan Trent, Brother of Tyler Trent
“Tyler’s story continues to inspire me to this day. Getting to talk to him a few months before his passing was one of the highlights of my career. Knowing the importance of his faith and telling others about Jesus before his passing was truly awesome to watch and I pray that his story continues to impact people for a very long time. His story has impacted me and I think about him almost every day.” -Jason Romano, Host of Sports Spectrum Podcast, Author
“Tyler was one of my best friends and inspired me exponentially in my faith. He was not perfect and during his first bout with cancer he tried to do everything on his own and by his own strength and as a result he caused a lot of pain. But there was a change the second time around and he knew he could not fight by his own strength. He relied fully on Christ and endured excruciating pain with a good attitude. Tyler took every opportunity he could to advance the Gospel and lived each moment as an ambassador for Christ. I will always look back on the ways he pointed me to God even when the world would say God had left him.” -Anni Osborne, friend of Tyler Trent
*Photos Courtesy of Purdue Athletics