Purdue super fan Tyler Trent’s strength in the final months of his life drew attention from the White House to ESPN SportsCenter.
The Carmel resident lost his battle with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, Jan. 1 at age 20 but left a legacy of positivity and hope with the millions he touched.
Trent withdrew from Purdue in September when doctors advised he didn’t have long to live after his third round of battling cancer. First diagnosed in 2014, Trent began drawing national attention when ESPN did a piece on his mission to make it to Purdue’s football game with Ohio State in October. Trent predicted a Purdue upset in the ESPN piece, and the Boilermakers shocked the then-No. 2 Buckeyes 49-20 Oct. 20. He later appeared on SportsCenter with anchor Scott Van Pelt.
Despite his weakened condition, Trent served as the honorary captain for the Indiana-Purdue football game Nov. 24 and was a Music City Bowl honorary captain when Purdue took on Auburn Dec. 28 in Nashville, Tenn. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay loaned his jet to fly the Trent family to Nashville. In addition, Trent was given the Disney Wide World of Sports Spirit Award at ESPN’s College Football Awards telecast earlier in December.
Trent also received a Sagamore of the Wabash, the top honor for Indiana citizens. He received a letter from President Donald Trump and a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence.
“We had high school teachers tell us this kid is going to do big things with his life,” said his father, Tony Trent. “We never dreamt it would look like this. When he got diagnosed the second time (in 2017), he committed to God that he would do all that he could to honor the Lord with his life, regardless of what it looked like. Tyler said it’s a win-win. He wins if he gets healed here or wins if he dies and goes to heaven. He committed to do all he could do to raise cancer awareness and bring attention to his faith.”
After learning of Trent’s situation on a radio show, Pacers play-by-play announcer Mark Boyle asked if Trent, a lifelong Indiana Pacers fan, would like to join him and analyst Bobby “Slick” Leonard in the radio broadcast booth for a quarter of a Nov. 5 home game against Houston.
“It’s odd the way it worked out, because I looked at it as here’s a young guy who is nearing the end of the line, if we could do something nice for him that would be cool,” Boyle said. “The reason I said it’s ironic is I think we got way more out of it than he did. I like to think he enjoyed himself.”
Boyle was inspired by the positive way Trent handled his battle.
Since the broadcast, Boyle said a day hasn’t passed that he’s thought about Trent.
“If I knew I was dying, I think I would be staging a pity party,” Boyle said. “This guy was facing it head-on and facing it realistically. He went out of his way to use the platform he was given. He took that and ran with it to raise money for research and awareness. He faced his situation with such dignity and determination. Not determination that he could beat the cancer, but determination to better someone else’s life if he could and leave a positive legacy. His legacy will go well behind his days on earth.”
Tony Trent said his son had a God-given gift of leadership.
“People just desired to want to be with him,” he said. “He always was selfless and always thought of other people. The beautiful thing is, he got to see the impact his life had made. Most people never see it.”
Trent’s funeral is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at College Park Church, 2606 W. 96th St., Indianapolis.
Trent, who wrote sports for Purdue’s student newspaper, wrote a book with John Driver called “The Upset.” Van Pelt wrote a forward for the book. His goal was to raise $1 million for cancer awareness and families battling cancer. For more, visit tylertrentbook.com.