A couple years ago, Tyler Summitt posted this heartfelt tribute video, reminding all who know Pat Summitt as a coach that she is a great mom, too.
Tyler, a walk-on guard on Tennessee's men's basketball team, was raised with basketball in his blood. As the story goes, Pat completed a recruiting visit in Pennsylvania with her water broken in 1990 and still made it back home to give birth so that her son would be born in Tennessee.
He played four games this past season, making the only shot he attempted all season -- a 3-pointer. He joined the team knowing he'd have to be a celebrity walk-on.
And now with the spotlight on his mother following Tuesday's announcement that Pat had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, it's become clear he will be very much a visible figure in her fight.
He sat by her during interviews, and according to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, after accompanying his mom to the Mayo Clinic to receive the diagnosis, Tyler and Pat perhaps need each other now more than ever.
When everyone departs the Summitt household there are two people left, gazing at each other with a deep, indestructible understanding. Suddenly, something becomes clear: Summitt’s qualities and legacy have been vastly underrated. All these years, while she was coaching basketball and teaching other people’s daughters, she very quietly and without any fanfare, did a stupendous job of mothering her son.
“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”
The boy, you realize with a start, is looking more like her all the time. He has the same scotch-red coloring, the same uplifted chin. The eyes are slightly different, a milder more limpid blue. But there is the same look in them, a quality. A candle.
On Tuesday, Tyler reminded everyone again what his mom means to him.
"Pat Summitt is not only my mom, but also an incredible role model and mentor for me," he said in a statement. "It seems like she teaches me something new every day, and she is currently giving me one of the best life lessons of all: to have the courage to be open, honest, and face the truth.
"This will be a new chapter for my mom and me, and we will continue to work as a team like we always have done. We both appreciate the continued support of the Lady Vol family. Our faith is in the Lord and we trust that God has a plan for us. Looking forward, nobody is as ready for the 2011-12 basketball season to start as much as the Summitt family. God Bless."