Truly Thankful: One fan's connection to Tyrice Thompson

Truly Thankful: One fan's connection to Tyrice Thompson

Credit: Getty Images

Truly Thankful: One fan's connection to Tyrice Thompson

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by Justin Prestegard, special to 3TV Sports

azfamily.com

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 29 at 11:28 AM

I have no relation to Tyrice Thompson. I cannot claim any relationship with those closest to him. The singular connection I have with Tyrice is the fact we both attended Arizona State University, which quite frankly brings about the obvious question anyone around me wants to ask: “Why on earth do you care so much about a person you never met?” This just leads to more questions like, “Why have you reached out to those close to him?” or “I know you love ASU sports, but why is this different?” Ultimately this leads to the deepest question, 

“Why are you so deeply rooted in the trial for a man accused of taking the life of Tyrice Thompson?”

Let me first apologize to those who truly can call Tyrice Thompson a son, a brother, a father, a friend, and a teammate. I know that in the digital age with social media the definition of the terms “family” and “friend” can be quite broad and in many cases diluted. The truth for me is that I reached out to many of those closest to Tyrice via social media and I am sure it raises as many questions in their minds as it has those closest to me. I never discussed this with any of them. I made a promise that I would not explain myself until after the trial actually began.  After months and months of delays the trial began on Monday.  In the coming days and weeks a jury of his peers will be selected to see him face justice, which is why the time has come for me with the answer to “Why?”

For me the story begins nine years ago in the spring of 2005. That year I left the Valley in to begin looking for the next challenge in my life and over the next few years my travels took me to Utah and Nevada. I will admit that while I always felt a connection to my alma mater it wasn’t until after I left the state that I desired to truly enhance that connection. While I was living in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas I began searching out alumni and other ASU fans to get together and develop a new network of Sun Devil friendships. This was when Social Media was still developing so building those connections was still through e-mails and phone calls.  However, it was a great way to network and I am so glad I left my comfort zone to meet so many people. During that time I met the love of my life and in the spring of 2007 we found out we were going to have a baby girl. 

Our daughter was due to arrive on December 1, 2007 which was also the night of the annual ASU v UofA football game. With the game set to record on the DVR we left for the hospital, but after we arrived the doctors determined they would wait to start the induction. After a rather grueling and emotionally draining 48 hours our daughter arrived on December 3rd. Everything people say about the moment your child arrives on this earth is true. When the doctor handed my daughter to me I refused to let her go (my mother-in-law will never let me forget it as she wanted to hold her, too). 

I fell in love all over again.

We were cleared to go home a few days later and those first weeks at home created so many memories, including having my daughter in my arms sitting down to finally watch the ASU football game I recorded days earlier. Thanks to family and friends I knew that ASU had won the game but I was still going to watch it, especially after I was told there were some unbelievable plays. As the game progressed I found myself enamored by Tyrice Thompson. I will admit I always love seeing any athlete who has given their all for their entire career and never worried about the spotlight. This particular game was also Senior Night meaning it was the last time many of these guys would ever play football at Arizona State. So when someone like Tyrice - whose story unfolded that night before so many people -turned his last game at Sun Devil Stadium into the game of his life the whole thing just seemed perfect. You could tell how special it was to him, his teammates, and those in the stands that the type of game Tyrice Thompson was having that night was one to be remembered. So for me - with the emotions of being a new dad and seeing such a performance like that just days later - this strange connection formed. From that day forward I would never forget the name Tyrice Thompson again.

In the years that followed through the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, and various alumni websites/resources I was able to always recall that game, that memory, and meet amazing people who either played in that game or were there in attendance. A college roommate of mine still living in the Valley developed a business that created and maintained many connections with ASU alumni. In my time as an ASU student it was no surprise to see former football players working side jobs at clubs or bars to make extra money. When this roommate mentioned Tyrice as one of the gentlemen he had seen while working events at a Scottsdale bar named Martini Ranch, it just brought back those memories of the game five years earlier. I was grateful to hear such stories and make new friendships even if they were just “digital.”

My time on this earth – and especially now as a father – has truly taught me what it means to be a positive light in the lives of those around me. I am chastised at times for following along on social media the lives of fellow Sun Devils and my response to that is I try to surround myself with people who are also positive and do what they can to lift those up around them. Life is too short to live any other way. So many Sun Devils in recent years have helped me along my journey and none of it would be possible without the creation of social media. 

On that fateful night last January I began seeing posts online the events surrounding what happened to Tyrice in real time. I began to pray as I knew so many were at his bedside in a state of shock. My wife didn’t understand why I was following it all so intently; she thought I had a closer connection to Tyrice than I actually did. But through the people I had met in recent years, especially others who did in fact know Tyrice, I began to see and hear so much more about the type of person he was OFF the field. This only burdened my sorrow more as it was clear the lives around him that he touched. His family began to circulate pictures of Tyrice with his baby son and when I saw those images for the first time I can honestly say I hit the ground. I looked up and asked the man upstairs how someone who had just become a father could be taken like that. It made no sense to me considering how blessed I felt to continue to care for my two young children.

In the days following his passing I tried to find pictures or videos from old games. I would pass them along to family members in hopes of trying to continue to shine light on the LIFE of Tyrice rather than his death. Arizona State even uploaded unreleased footage of a song he performed at a 2006 Hawaii Bowl reception, a song that was his own and another reminder of his life OFF the field.

Yet through it all I continued to follow the story surrounding his death. I just felt compelled to see how and why something like this would happen. We live in an age where these questions can be answered swiftly thanks to social media. However as the days progressed it started to become clear that this was a cloudy situation; one which still boiled down to only a few witnesses and ultimately was coming down to those willing to talk or those who stayed silent to protect friends.

I know deep down in my heart whatever happens during this trial we may never know the absolute truth. Three people were there at the moment of truth and one of those people is not alive to tell his side of what happened.  However I also believe in a higher power and that tells me justice will come sooner or later for those responsible for taking a life too soon. I will follow the trial through its process as I pray that those who feel compelled to tell the truth will follow through on that promise. Above all else I know those closest to Tyrice feel his presence daily and will continue to see his light shine in so many ways the rest of our days. I may never develop the same connection to Tyrice that they have, but I am grateful for what I do know of him and the stories passed along from those closest to him. 

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