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Pitt receiver Tre Tipton loves where career path is headed | TribLIVE.com
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Pitt receiver Tre Tipton loves where career path is headed

Jerry DiPaola
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt receiver Tre Tipton goes through drills during practice Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

The question lit a fire in Pitt junior wide receiver Tre Tipton.

More like an inferno.

Because nothing Tipton does — from running routes on the practice field to bonding with Pitt athletes through his LOVE program — is done without enthusiasm and sincerity.

Actually, the question sounded simple enough: “How, with your faith, has your injury changed you as a person and player?”

When Tipton heard it, a smile stretched across his face and he said, “Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this question a very long time.”

Tipton, who has had three season-ending injuries since he played the first four games of 2015 as a freshman, proudly said, “The injury was the best thing that ever happened to me, by far.

“I would never regret saying that because it made me grow up as a man and, basically, put adversity right in front of me, and said, ‘Either you’re going to go through it or it’s going to destroy you.’ Thankfully to God, I ended up getting over it.

“Fortunately enough for me, it’s not the last time I will have adversity. I believe pain is the best teacher, and it’s not the worst thing ever. For me as a person, it changed me mentally, physically and emotionally. I became more of a positive person.”

It was about a year ago when Tipton was studying in a campus library and, by chance encounter, met former Baldwin wrestler and Pitt student Elee Khalil, whose own athletic career was sidetracked by an injury.

“Ever since then, we weirdly became best friends,” Tipton said.

Through their friendship and shared adversities, Tipton and Khalil created LOVE (Living Out Victoriously Everyday)—an on-campus program.

“It helps student-athletes who deal with depression, anxiety and injury,” Tipton said. “The goal is basically, through communities, to help student-athletes come together as one and help each other out.

“When depression hits, it’s like a bullet with no name. Being a freshmen on campus is the first time you’re here alone. It leads to a large problem that we have in the NCAA: Mental health is something that has been looked over and looked past.”

A nine-year study, authored by five doctors and published by Sports Health, found there were 35 suicides among 477 student-athlete deaths from 2003-12. A total of 13 were football players, nearly three times more than any other sport.

“That speaks loudly,” Tipton said.

Tipton said an average of 40 student-athletes, including some of his football teammates, have attended LOVE events over the past year. It represents what Tipton does best: meet people and instantly become their friend.

“It gives student-athletes the chance to open up in ways they’re not used to,” he said. “I’ve got to know different athletes, different people, administration, to get to know their story, get to know their side of things.”

Tipton, a graduate of Apollo-Ridge, has suffered a collapsed lung and two knee injuries in three years at Pitt. The second knee injury occurred in an offseason bike accident last summer, ending his 2017 season before it began.

Tipton said the knee is completely healed, and he’s one of a several pass catchers hoping to earn playing time this season. He has 12 career catches for 142 yards and a touchdown (all in 2016), which makes him one of the more experienced wide receivers on the team.

“He’s been great,” coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s stayed healthy, and (coaches) hope to keep it that way. He’s not been held back. He’s working hard.”

“With an injury, you go through some hard times,” Tipton said. “With that said, if you have a positive mindset, it’s very possible to come back better than you were before.

“That was my goal the whole time. I didn’t want to come back and be average or feel like I became less than I was before. Because the old me before the injury is dead.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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