Apollo-Ridge High School star battled depression, suicidal thoughts for 12 years
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Thirty-five miles northeast of Pittsburgh, a football star was born.
But for Pitt’s Tre Tipton, it wasn’t always peaches and cream.
Serious bouts with depression. Twelve years of suicidal thoughts. Season-ending injuries.
However, on May 25, the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professions (N4A) named Tipton a recipient of the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. The award honors student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.
Tipton was a three-sport star at Apollo-Ridge High School, but he wowed crowds as a quarterback, receiver and defensive back on the football field. He came to Pitt in 2015, where injuries plagued much of his first few years. He played in 14 games in 2018 and the first three games in 2019 before he was sidelined again for the season due to injury.
Last year, Tipton played in nine games, catching 11 passes for 104 yards. Overall, Tipton has played in 39 games for Pitt, with 35 receptions for 369 yards and two touchdowns.
Tipton already earned his bachelor’s degree in communication, and is now pursuing graduate studies in Pitt’s School of Social Work. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility, and will play for the Panthers at wide receiver in the fall, known as a “super-senior.”
“Tre has never allowed adversity, on or off the field, to get in the way of his high aspirations,” Coach Pat Narduzzi said in a release from Pitt. “His strength, courage and perseverance are an inspiration to our entire program. We are all incredibly proud of this recognition for Tre and know that he has even more great achievements in store for the future.”
Tipton has been very forthcoming in his previous battles with suicidal thoughts. In “The Story of Tre Tipton,” a video produced by Pitt, Tipton described how he was seconds away from jumping off the Fort Duquesne bridge near Heinz Field following his first season-ending injury in 2015.
“Now, the one thing that I used to look forward to, that used to keep me sane (playing football), is now out of my hands and gone. Then that’s when I started to look at myself and say I’m worthless,” Tipton said. “I was so deep in my own depression, there was no coming out. I ended up doing some things to myself and the people around me that I would never ever wish upon anybody. I felt so alone because nobody understood me and I didn’t expect anybody to understand me. But the one thing I did understand is that I wanted the pain to stop. And then my final attempt was at a bridge, very close to Heinz Field, I was staring at the water, I was starting to move my feet, preparing myself to jump; I heard something say to me that you’re not ready yet. I took my shirt off, dropped it into the water, and I told myself that would be it, I wasn’t going to go back to that. From this day forward I’m going to be somebody better than I’ve ever been, no matter what it takes.”
Tipton later founded L.O.V.E. (Living Out Victoriously Everyday), a program that helps “empower, provide hope and build a community for collegiate student-athletes who are dealing with mental, emotional, and physical struggles” through fellowship and access to professional help, the Pitt release said.
Tipton’s won other awards, too, such as the Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award. He was named to the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team, as well.
Tipton said he was “extremely blessed and thankful to receive such a prestigious award in honor of the great Wilma Rudolph.”
Rudolph, a Black woman, was told as a child that she would never walk again after bouts with polio and scarlet fever. Growing up in Tennessee, Rudolph defied the odds, and at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, she won three gold medals as a sprinter in track and field, making her one of the most decorated champions in American history. She was later inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Silver Anniversary Award.
She died in 1994 at age 54. Her alma mater, Tennessee State University, has an indoor track and residence center named after Rudolph.
“I hope that my story can help change the perspectives of people in their own lives,” Tipton added. “Adversity is a comma in the sentence of life, not a period.”
TRE TIPTON (Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Panthers)