It always strikes me quick when I hear bad news and the news I received on a phone call last night was tragic. Larry Reece, the dynamic public address announcer in Gallagher-Iba Arena and in Boone Pickens Stadium and now a cancer survivor after his battle with throat cancer this past year, has said, "Sometimes it's tough to be us." Is it ever!
Tyrek Coger wasn't even on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater for three full weeks. He had made a huge impression on his teammates and especially on his roommate Davon Dillard, who tweeted that Tyrek was one of the funniest people he had ever met. Cowboy basketball teammates confirmed that evaluation.
Tyrek was funny and head coach Brad Underwood called him a joker. The medical examiner for the State of Oklahoma ruled his death by natural causes and discovered he had an enlarged heart. The medical examiner further determined that heat was not a cause of Coger's death after the basketball team wrapped up a 40-minute session running stadium steps late Thursday afternoon.
As Reece said, it is tough to be us. Homecoming last fall and the tragedy at the end of the Homecoming Parade with a disturbed woman driving her car into parade watchers that included children, families, retired individuals – all innocent victims enjoying the fruits of life in a college town. It is our basketball teams that have suffered most with the 2011 small plane crash in the hills of Arkansas that took the lives of women's basketball head coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, along with two Oklahoma State alumni flying the plane.
It is the 2001 plane crash that took 10 lives including two basketball players, four staff members, two members of the radio crew, and the two pilots. The players were Nate Fleming and Daniel Lawson. The staff members were Will Hancock of sports information, Pat Noyes and Jared Weiberg of basketball and Brian Luinstra of the sports medicine staff. Play-by-play voice Bill Teegins and engineer Kendall Durfey from the radio network, The pilots were Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom.
That is a lot of grief in 15 years. Now, another player has died. A 21-year-old young man, who had nearly a full book of life to write. I'm 56 years old and I've played all the competitive sports I'm going to play. I've seen all these years, nearly 34 with my wife, and treasured every minute. I've raised two children, one an Oklahoma State football player and the other a perfect 4.0 student in business at Oklahoma State that was also a member of the Homecoming court at OSU.
I've written a book, I've broadcast a lot of games. I have so many friends and acquaintances that I treasure having met and spent time with.
I did not write all that to volunteer to trade places with Tyrek. God doesn't work that way. I said it to show just with my little life that Tyrek missed a lot of potential living. It is sad to think that he won't exchange vows, nor will he won't hold a child that is his own. Those are things I think of and those are reasons I grieve for losing one so young.
I can understand the tears of head basketball coach Brad Underwood because I shed tears last night. I didn't know Tyrek Coger, but I shared a couple of loves with him. The love of Oklahoma State University and it sure sounds like we shared the love of life.
I'm with Underwood and athletic director Mike Holder. I will remember Tyrek Coger every time I see a basketball bounce in Gallagher-Iba Arena. I think I will remember Tyrek and I hope he realizes that he had a lot of friends and admirers he had yet to meet that will keep him in their heart.
It is tough to be us, but regardless of the hurt, the pain put in front of us, we will always endure, and just like the previous tragedies we pledge to the Coger family to always remember. We owe that to Tyrek and we need to be strong as we owe that to the teammates and friends he left behind.