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Tech family mourns fallen Bulldog

February 9, 2012

DUPLESSIS

ANNA CLAIRE THOMAS
Sports Editor

 

Shocking. Unreal. Hard to believe.

 

Those are a few of the whispered sentiments of the students walking around an eerily quiet Tech campus on the morning of Feb 2. after hearing of the devastating loss of one of our own.

 

For anyone affiliated with the Tech family, Thursday morning brought heartbreaking news that we had lost not only one of our athletes, but a classmate.

 

Louisiana Tech officials confirmed the worst, the sudden death of running back Tyrone Duplessis, citing unknown causes with an autopsy pending.

 

According to school officials, Duplessis, a 21-year-old redshirt sophomore, was found in a shocking turn of events early Thursday morning in his off-campus apartment.

 

Tech officials expressed their condolences to the family and friends of Duplessis as well as all the members the Tech community in a statement released with President Dan Reneau speaking on behalf of the university.

A tribute to Duplessis’ life was made in his honor in the window outside the library. –Submitted Photo

 

“Tyrone was not only a valuable member of our football program, but much more importantly, he was a valued member of the Tech family,” Reneau said. “This is a painful loss for our campus community and our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”

 

You see it on occasion in sports, the sudden passing of an athlete gone too soon. It seems exceptionally hard to grasp when it happens to a 20-something student athlete just starting out in his career.

 

When it does happen to strike at various schools, everyone expresses sadness without believing it can actually happen to someone so closely associated with them.

 

The death of Duplessis, commonly referred to as “Roni” and “Fun Size” by his teammates, came as a shock to not only everyone affiliated with Louisiana Tech, but to anyone associated with the college sports world and left questions unanswered.

 

“I think the two things that stand out for everybody are why did it happen–and that’s something we’ll obviously never be able to answer–and the second thing is what happened, and we don’t know anything yet honestly,” head coach Sonny Dykes said.

 

Duplessis, a player out of New Orleans, came to Tech from O.P. Walker High School, where he won a state championship, and was in his third-year as a member of the Bulldog football team.

 

During his time at Tech, Duplessis, who earned all-state honors as a high school standout, played in 11 games with 77 rushes for 274 yards.

 

Dykes said the team’s ability to cope with the loss of a teammate will be a collective effort for the players, coaches and fans.

 

“We have to rely on each other,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing we have to do. You get through this with your family, and this is our family. Our players know this will not be an easy thing to get through. It’ll take a long time, and I’m not sure it’s something you ever get over, but it’s something you survive and work through.”

 

In a testament to how meaningful Duplessis was to the Ruston community, teammates, friends, fans and well-wishers took to Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media to express their condolences throughout the weekend in support of Duplessis and his family and friends.

 

His jersey number, 22, was made on a banner with the Tech emblem and put up as a profile picture for hundreds of Tech students within hours of his death.

 

The hash tag #RIPTDLATECH was and is still being used on Twitter by students, fans and friends mourning the loss.

 

Within 24 hours of his passing, a memorial fund was set up in recognition of Duplessis as well as a public memorial service for anyone wanting to honor his memory.

 

Duplessis’ locker will remain untouched for the 2012 football season in honor of the Bulldogs’ fallen teammate while students across campus have had the chance to honor Duplessis publicly with a tribute to his life in a window outside the library.

 

Dykes spoke of Duplessis’ passion for the game of football and life in general and described him as someone who loved to be around his teammates, and people enjoyed being around him. He had a very outgoing personality and had a unique way of dealing with people that was kind of fun.”

 

“He loved to be around his teammates, and people enjoyed being around him. He had a very outgoing personality and had a unique way of dealing with people that was kind of fun.”

 

Dykes recalled last week during a press conference announcing his passing, seeing Duplessis for the last time Wednesday afternoon in the training room with a giant smile on his face enjoying life to the fullest.

 

While Duplessis’ drive and passion for football has been well-documented over the last few days, his vigor for life is what set him apart in the eyes of everyone who was impacted by his presence.

 

His memory will forever live on in the hearts of everyone in the Tech family and beyond.

 

“Tyrone was a valuable part of this football family,” Dykes said. “This is a tragic, senseless loss, but he made a lasting impact on this team, university and everyone that knew him.”

 

A public service honoring Duplessis’ memory will be held at 5 p.m. Friday in the Thomas Assembly Center for students, teammates, fans and alumni wishing to pay their respects for the former Bulldog.

 

Buttons with Duplessis’ jersey number will also be available for fans to purchase at the public service Friday with proceeds going to the memorial fund set up in his honor.

 

The university and athletics department, along with the family, asks that in lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Tyrone may be made to the Tyrone Duplessis Memorial Fund at the Louisiana Tech University Foundation, Inc.

 

This is a tax deductible gift and can be made payable to the Louisiana Tech University Foundation, Inc. (memo: the Tyrone Duplessis Memorial Fund) and mailed to P.O. Box 1190, Ruston, LA 71273-1190.

 

Gifts to the fund may also be made online at www.latechalumni.org.

 

For more information, or to make a gift by phone, please call Jennifer Riley at (318) 255-7950 or email jennifer@latechalumni.org.

 

Email comments to act013@latech.edu.

 

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