Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has offered encouraging words to Purdue superfan Tyler Trent over the phone, on FaceTime and through an autographed photo and football over the past year.
Swinney, who has led Clemson to the College Football Playoff four consecutive seasons, finally had the opportunity to meet Trent on Thursday night in Atlanta.
Trent, who is battling a rare form of bone cancer, received the Disney Spirit Award during the College Football Awards show at the College Football Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to college football’s most inspirational player, coach, team or figure. Swinney said Trent is certainly a deserving winner of the award.
“What an inspiration he is to so many people,” Swinney said. “I’ve been coming to this event every year, and that’s easily the most powerful Disney Award I’ve ever been a part of. Really an honor to meet him.”
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Swinney sent Trent an autographed football in November and an autographed photo in April.
Trent said those gestures meant a lot, as did having Swinney come over to offer encouragement during the College Football Awards show on Thursday.
“He just said some encouraging words and said that he was happy that I was able to make it and was kind of surprised that I was able to make it,” Trent said. “He wanted to make sure that I did get the ball. We talked briefly. He’s been encouraging me over the last few months.”
Swinney added that Trent has been an inspiration to him.
“Just a privilege to just finally be able to meet him. We’ve talked on the phone. We’ve actually Facetimed on the phone. I sent him something last year and this year to just encourage him. But just amazing to be able to meet him in person,” Swinney said. “First of all that he’s still here. He’s still with us. He’s still fighting.”
Trent was the star of the show in Atlanta as several athletes posed for pictures with him, including Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Kentucky star Josh Allen.
Trent also spent time on the set of NBA on TNT and visited with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. He said that hearing from Swinney and so many players, coaches and people throughout the past several months has helped him to keep fighting.
“It’s super encouraging, just like when Scott Van Pelt and I were talking on his show, just receiving things like that it just really lifts you up. It really does,” Trent said. “It keeps you going. It just shows you that people care and that what you’re doing is making a real impact in the world.”