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Leadership with Dr. Dan: Inspiring Your Team

On October 20, 2018, the Purdue football team would play #2 ranked Ohio State. The last time Purdue would knock off a top 10 football team – almost 20 years ago! Coach Jeff Brohm was only in his second year at Purdue and he knew his team stats did not stack up against the mighty Buckeyes. In fact, Purdue lost the first 3 games of the year – against opponents that are usually stacked for early wins before playing against fellow Big Ten teams. But on this night, a replacement quarterback (David Blough) and a freshman player would go on to wreak havoc against the No 2 ranked mighty Buckeyes.

But against the backdrop of this story is one incredible and inspiring young man – Tyler Trent, the bespectacled Boilermaker sophomore who is fighting terminal cancer. Tyler thought there was no way he could make it Saturday’s game. He was back in his Carmel home, under hospice care and everything was going wrong. Tyler has been fighting osteosarcoma. Vomiting, nausea and headaches are side effects from all the treatments. But on this Saturday, he made the trip to Ross-Ade stadium – home of his beloved Boilermakers football team. Tyler has been the honorary captain of this team. Player after player has been inspired by the courage and strength of this young man. 

But, the Boilers did that Saturday night: It was inspired. It was brilliant. And, like Tyler Trent himself, they got off the mat after three opening – season losses and won their fourth straight with a beat down of No. 2 Ohio State. 

There was nothing fluky about it, not use of smoke and mirrors or sleight of hand involved in Purdue’s emphatic 49-20 takedown of No. 2 Ohio State. But look at the score, the one-sided nature of the game, the way the Boilers controlled things until a late Ohio State flurry, and you’ll see that on that night, Purdue was the vastly better team. 

Nobody had stopped the Buckeyes; nobody had come close. Until Purdue and Tyler Trent showed up. 

And beyond that, it was moving, the fact Trent was able to fight through the pain and the fatigue and watch his beloved Boilers pull off one of the program’s biggest upsets ever, and surely the greatest upset of the Jeff Brohm Era. Well, that was simply inspiring. 

How much has Trent meant to the Purdue campus? During the game, fans usually scream “IU Sucks!” but with the aid of a social media campaign, the screamed instead, “Cancer sucks.” Up in his private suite, Trent smiled. Just as the Carmel sophomore has supported his school these past few years, this time, they had his back.

As leaders: How do you inspire your team? Do you give them hope when there does not seem to be much hope at all? True leaders inspire. Every so often a Tyler Trent comes around to remind us that hope and inspiration are the keys to overcoming difficulties in our livers.

Leaders Lead – if only the world had more Tyler Trent’s!

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