Pitt’s Tre Tipton manages to wear a smile after fourth injury in five seasons
Tre Tipton leans on crutches, his left knee locked in a brace, while others around him run, jump and play.
A senior wide receiver at Pitt, his season is over, ruptured (his word) by an injury for the fourth time in his five seasons at Pitt.
Others feel bad for his misfortune. After all, this was his season to be a pass catcher at Pitt, with the team leading the nation in pass attempts (265 in only six games).
But Tipton has no time for self-pity.
He’s a big man on campus in the most vital sense after creating a nonprofit group called L.O.V.E., whose aim is to help student-athletes cope with their struggles, no matter if they’re physical, mental or emotional.
So, a week after knee surgery, Tipton thought nothing of joining several teammates at Kennard Field on Wednesday night to assist the undefeated Hill District Rebels (8-0) youth football team at practice. Actually, Tipton didn’t know it, but he also was there to receive his trophy for being one 22 student-athletes named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
How does he find the time? How does he find the motivation?
It’s easy when, as he said, “I’ve always wanted to be a super hero. I’ve always wanted to change the world. If God gives me the ability, I’m going to do it.”
Tipton long ago accepted the reality of his life.
“I’m injury prone,” said the Apollo-Ridge graduate. “I‘ve been through every injury since I’ve been here. Not only that, but I know what it’s like to be depressed. I know what it’s like to have anxiety. I know what it’s like having to fight through being positive when it’s not easy to be positive.”
His latest injury occurred in practice after the third game. He was in the wide receiver rotation, catching seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.
When it happened, he knew immediately something was wrong.
“I (said), ‘It can’t be what I think it is.’ It ended up being what I thought it was,” he said.
But he said the injury is just another “stepping stone”
“It’s an opportunity for me to build on me,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to be a better man than what I was before I got hurt. It’s happened, so what are you going to do next? Are you going to get up or are you going to stay down? I’m the type of person who gets up. This is nothing to me. Another little obstacle I’m ready to get over.”
The next obstacle is to get clearance from the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility in 2020. He’s played only one full season at Pitt (2018), so there’s hope.
“It’s in my hopes. It’s in my dreams, and I’m praying for it,” he said.
He said the work he does with L.O.V.E. remains a top priority.
“That’s more important to me than any number I’ve ever worn on the football field,” he said. “I feel like it’s our job to influence these kids and give them (hope) that they can be more than just an athlete.
“That’s my ultimate goal to give everybody hope. If there is no hope, I’ll bring it to them.”
His message to the Rebels was to believe in themselves.
“Anything that they want to do I want them to truly believe that they can do it,” he said. “I want to show them that you don’t just have to be an athlete. You just don’t have to be an entertainer or a rapper. You don’t have to go out and do what everybody wants you to do. You can do whatever you want to do.”
Back at Pitt, he plans to help his teammates through the end of the season.
“I’ll just try to be a leader,” he said. “If that means, keeping a smile on my face, if that’s being positive, I’m going to do it. If they need me to be quiet, I’ll be quiet.”
Actually, that might be asking too much.
“You best believe I’ll be there to get the crowd hyped,” he said. “I’m fully invested into this team.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .