WEST LAFAYETTE — Tyler Trent, the Purdue University athletics superfan who rose to national and worldwide fame telling of his ordeal with a rare form of bone cancer, has died.
“The world lost a great Boilermaker in Tyler Trent,” Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said. “Anyone who spent time with him or heard his story in one of the countless national media accounts knows he was a remarkable young man — someone whose record of accomplishment was far longer than most people can accrue in many decades of life.
“We mourn with Tyler’s family and the entire Purdue community.”
Trent, 20, died Tuesday from osteosarcoma, a terminal bone cancer he had since first discovering it at age 15 after he broke his arm while in high school. In 2014, that right arm bone was removed from elbow to shoulder and replaced with titanium. Three years later, doctors found cancer in his pelvis.
The Trent family issued a statement Wednesday, thanking people for their support.
“We have been beyond blessed by the outpouring of love, encouragement, support and prayers. It has truly carried us through this most difficult journey and we have also been humbled and comforted as others have celebrated and rejoiced with us in the exciting, memorable times as well. Tyler’s loss is going to leave a large hole in our family, but God is faithful. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers as we grieve and carry on Tyler’s legacy.”
Purdue Athletics also posted a statement on its website mourning Trent’s passing.
“First and foremost, we offer our condolences to Tyler’s family and friends. While there are no words to ease the hurt at times like this, we hope some comfort can be found in knowing what an inspiration Tyler is to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans. The entire Purdue Athletics family has been touched by his courageous battle, positive spirit and unwavering faith. Tyler was the embodiment of a true Boilermaker who will live on in each of us. We will forever be #TylerStrong.”
After learning that his cancer had spread to his pelvis, Trent formed “Teens With a Cause,” an organization that recruits children to perform service projects such as mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow for families that are impacted by cancer.
A Purdue graduate and honorary team captain of the Boilermakers football team, Trent became the face of the university when his story aired Oct. 20 on ESPN — the day he correctly predicted a Purdue victory over then-No. 2 Ohio State.
The Boilermakers won in a rout, 49-20, and Trent was soon flooded with media attention, having profiles produced by several national, regional and local media outlets.
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, whose team will play Alabama for the national championship on Jan. 7, and Vice President Mike Pence reached out to him to deliver their words of encouragement, according to Purdue Athletics.
Trent became a recognizable fixture at Ross-Ade Stadium throughout the remainder of the 2018 season, and was well enough to make a road trip to Bloomington to watch the Boilermakers beat rival Indiana, 28-21, and retain possession of the Old Oaken Bucket trophy.
On Dec. 28 — four days before his death — Trent attended the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., where the Boilermakers lost to Auburn, 63-14
Trent was honored Dec. 6 with the 2018 Disney Spirit Award, presented each year by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational player, coach or figure. He also worked with the Bobblehead Hall of Fame Museum and Purdue University to help sell a limited-edition bobblehead made in his image — the proceeds from which will go to The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment.
Locally, Trent was the recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, an honorary award given to Hoosiers who have rendered distinguished service to the state or to the governor. It’s one of the highest honors given by the state of Indiana.
He recently partnered with Riley Hospital for Children to create a cancer research endowment in his name. The fund will support the Precision Genomics program and cover genetic testing for families and aid in cancer research.
Last week, donors to Purdue University established the Tyler Trent Courage and Resilience Award. The first scholarship, open to any student attending the West Lafayette campus, will be awarded later this year.
Trent earned an associate degree from Purdue in computer information technology and, before being placed in hospice care, had been a sports writer for the Exponent, Purdue’s student newspaper.
Funeral services for Trent will take place at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at College Park Church, 2606 W. 96th St., Indianapolis. There will not be a visitation prior to the funeral, but there will be a reception following the services.
There will be a candlelight memorial at 6 p.m. Jan. 9 outside Hovde Hall at Purdue University to honor Trent’s life.