They were running backs in a similar situation, just trying to make the Indianapolis Colts’ roster.
Daniel “Boom” Herron and Zurlon Tipton formed a bond in 2014 that went beyond football.
“I can honestly say when I heard it, I sat down and I kind of broke down,” Herron said in a Wednesday phone call. “Me and ‘Tip,’ we had a special relationship.
“Both of us were kind of under-the-radar guys playing for the Colts, always on the edge of making the team. We always grind together. He had my back. I had his back. We looked out for each other. He was like my little brother when he came to the team. When I got that news, it was hard for me, man. He was almost like a blood brother to me.”
Tipton, 26, died after a gun he owned accidentally discharged and shot him in the stomach during a service stop at an automotive dealership in Roseville, Mich. His funeral will be Saturday in St. Clair Shores, Mich.
A reserve who played in 16 games in two seasons, Tipton came to the Colts as an undrafted free agent. Herron was in his first season with the Colts in 2014.
While Herron played in all 16 games, including three starts, and became the postseason starter, Tipton spent time on the practice squad as a rookie before being signed to the active roster. They worked hard together. And they laughed even harder together.
Known as “Tip” or “Z,” Tipton’s energetic personality resonated in the Colts locker room.
“‘Tip’ was my guy,” Herron said. “I think he was in some sort of way everybody’s guy. He was just a guy everybody liked. He always had a smile on his face. He always had a joke for everybody. He was the loudest guy in the locker room. He was just a great guy to be around because he’s always going to show you a good time. But when it came time to work, he knew what time it was.
“If you ever met ‘Tip,’ he was just very outgoing. He was a great guy and had that big smile. He was just always happy. He always knew how to brighten a room when he came in. He’d get your attention and make you laugh. He would definitely cheer your day up. You could have a bad day going and he would say something crazy to brighten your day. That’s what I’m going to miss about him. He was one of those guys who could turn a day around for you.”
They last spoke two weeks ago.
“As soon as I signed back in Buffalo, we had FaceTime,” Herron said. “He called me and congratulated me. We talked about his (free-agent) situation, what he had going on, what I had going on, how I felt about signing back with Buffalo. We were just catching up. We talked all the time. If it wasn’t through texts, through phone calls, Snapchat, social media, we always kept in contact. We built a friendship that was bigger than us just being teammates on and off the field.
“I had a pretty good relationship with his family. The biggest thing I hurt for is his young daughter. He loved her. He wanted to give her the world. He thought the highest of her. When I heard the news, that’s the first person I thought of. They had a special bond, a special relationship. It’s tough to see a young girl have to be raised without her father.”
Tipton’s obituary included: “His daughter, Zoe Aniya, 'Little Momma,’ was the apple of his eye and he truly adored and cherished her.”
“It’s hard to see that,” Herron said. “I’m going to do my best to get up there with the family, go to the funeral and do whatever I can to comfort the family and help out because I feel like his family is my family. I’m going to be there because I know if the tables were turned, he would do the same thing.”
Tipton was released in December and exploring his free-agent options at the time of his death. Most of his two seasons were spent on special teams. He had just 15 carries for 38 yards with 11 catches for 125 yards and one touchdown in the regular season.
But there was a postseason game where the Colts counted on both Herron and Tipton to prevail, a 26-10 AFC Divisional playoff victory over Cincinnati on Jan. 4, 2015, at Lucas Oil Stadium. Herron ran 12 times for 56 yards and a touchdown while also catching a franchise playoff-record 10 passes for 85 yards. Tipton spelled him with 11 rushes for 40 yards, both career bests, as well as a 6-yard reception.
Two weeks later, Tipton scored the Colts’ only touchdown on a run in a 45-7 AFC Championship Game loss at New England. He had only one other score in his brief career.
Herron played six games for the Colts last season while Tipton played in 10.
As he shared memories about his friend, Herron couldn’t help but laugh repeatedly in the emotional conversation.
“One thing he used to always say, he would look up to the sky and say, ‘Look, I’m shining like the light,’” Herron said.
“Donte sent me two videos. We used to clown around in the locker room. Donte sent me a video of ‘Tip’ saying he was shining like the light. Seeing those old videos made me smile. I’ve got a video of him and pictures of him.
“He’s definitely never going to be forgotten. ‘Tip’ was our boy, great friend, great teammate. We all loved each other. I wish the last time that I talked to him, I would have told him that because I loved him like a brother.
“If it’s somebody you love, make sure you always tell ‘em you love ‘em. Life is too short.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.