Tyler Trent, a former Purdue University student who inspired many with his fight against cancer, died at 20 years old on Jan. 1.
Trent wanted to be a sportswriter and was determined to attend Purdue despite suffering three bouts with a rare bone cancer, first diagnosed at age 15. He entered Purdue in the fall of 2017 while undergoing chemotherapy. He camped out with another student to get good seats to a Purdue-Michigan football game, just hours after chemotherapy.
Coach Jeff Brohm remembered meeting Trent for the first time then.
“You just see a guy dressed in Purdue garb head-to-toe with a big smile on his face,” Brohm told ESPN. “He didn’t tell me his story. He didn’t tell me what he was going through. He just had a positive attitude.”
They later got to know each other, and in 2018 Trent gained national attention in 2018 by becoming the adopted captain of the Boilermakers football team. He was in a wheelchair for Purdue’s upset win over Ohio State, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) January 2, 2019
“What gave him a sense of love and purpose touched all of us and inspired all of us,” Brohm told the Indianapolis Star. “There was no quit in him. There was a lot of fight in him. It’s like you couldn’t get him down. While I’m sure he was in pain and suffering, he put a smile on his face.”
Trent became a social media star with his positive attitude and determination to live every day to the fullest despite the illness.
“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,” Trent wrote in a guest column for the newspaper in early December.
Trent earned an associate degree from Purdue in computer information technology.
The Purdue athletic department offered condolences to Trent’s family and friends in a statement posted on its website.
Last year, Purdue created a scholarship, the Tyler Trent Courage and Resilience Award, for an undergraduate who has encountered adversity while pursuing a college degree.
The Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment also was set up to support cancer research at Purdue and received more than $100,000 in donations.
In December, Trent won Disney’s Wide World of Sports Spirit Award, given annually to college football’s most inspirational individual or team.
“Tyler Trent was among the biggest, strongest and wisest people you could ever meet,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. “He reminded us what being good is all about.”
One of his doctors said he was a good person.
“His passion for life, his passion for Purdue football, his passion to do whatever he could, even in the midst of this crazy, horrible journey that he was on,” Jamie Renbarger, Trent’s doctor at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, told the Star. “He still wanted to help people. He was just a really genuine human being.”
In the last months before his death, Trent’s house in Carmel was full of visitors, including coaches, journalists, friends, and family members.
“The reason we wanted to be around Tyler is because we all like to think we could be as strong as he was going through something like this,” said IndyStar sports columnist Gregg Doyel, who became close to Trent. “We all want to be near greatness. The way he handled his cancer was nothing short of heroic.”
Doyel said that near the end, Trent looked serene.
“He looked at ease,” Doyel said. “He looked peaceful.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.