Athletes told danger of opioids

PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY Wayne Campbbell of Tyler’s Light speaks to Columbian High School football team members Wednesday about the dangers of opioids.

Wayne Campbell shared the tragic story of his son’s death Wednesday morning with student athletes at Columbian High School.

Campbell, of Pickerington, is the president and founder of a drug education and awareness organization for students, families and communities titled “Tyler’s Light.”

The focus, according to Campbell, was on the opioid epidemic, specifically in student athletes and how it is connected to heroin and the sharing of pharmaceutical drugs.

Campbell has talked to more than 200 schools and 150,000 students. The reason, he said, is he was not able to save his son and hopes to save other students who need of help.

Campbell said his son, Tyler Campbell, had aspirations of playing for a Division I football team in college.

“Tyler was gifted athletically and had a great personality,” he said.

Campbell worked to help his son live his dreams and sent out letters to different schools, and soon, Tyler was asked to tryout at the University of Akron. Tyler made the team in 2007 and played during the season-opening game against Ohio State University.

He was having a great second year, Campbell said; they “wouldn’t have seen anything going on.”

More and more, Tyler was injured, and it began to take a toll in his third year. He had shoulder surgery and a doctor prescribe 60 Vicodin pills.

Campbell said Tyler’s grades began to slip and he noticed Tyler was making errors on the field and was becoming more irritable.

At age 23, Tyler died of an overdose 12-hours after returning home from a rehabilitation facility, Campbell said.

Campbell said Tyler was not the only athlete on the team who was suffering from addiction. Three months after Tyler’s death, the quarterback of the team also died of an overdose.

“I enjoy talking to student athletes, more so because this story can relate to your life or someone you know,” Campbell said. “With students involved in sports, there will be injuries, you will get hurt. It is our responsibility to educate young athletes on the dangers of drugs and to encourage you to speak up if they or someone they know is in trouble.”

During his presentation, Campbell showed the students videos and discussed what the students saw.

One video featured statistics throughout the state, including that one in five teens has tried a prescription drug that was not prescribed to them. Today, Campbell said, at least 11 people die each day due to accidental drug overdoses.

“We are in a serious situation,” Campbell said.

More people die due to overdoses than car crashes, he said.

Campbell also shared six reasons high schools students will try different types of drugs, such as peer pressure, escaping their problems, appeal, emotional problems, curiosity or rebellion.

Jared Lutz, Columbian head football coach, said he hopes the students take a way “nuggets” of information.

“This has something to do with your life and what you want to be,” Lutz said. “This is something beyond football, beyond the game.”

Lutz said, as a former player, he was injured and the doctor prescribed him pills without really asking the reason.

“This is a serious epidemic for your generation,” Lutz said. “Being a small group of athletes, no one wakes up and says they are going to become a heroin addict. It breaks my heart that you guys have to grow up so quick.”

Lutz also explained some family members have suffered the fate of opioid addiction.

“This will be a battle the rest of their lives,” he said. “If there is someone you know who is in trouble, speak to them and a coach. Be a man and stand up and speak out.”

The story of Tyler’s Light has been featured on HBO and 60 Minutes, and a documentary on DirectTV.

For more information about the organization, visit www.tylerslight.com.