I never write. I always feel compelled to write about different experiences and ideas floating in my head, but for some reason I always push the urge to express myself to the back of my mind, opting for whatever is easier and less productive. But today was different. Today I feel like my whole nonchalant attitude towards all of my talents and privileges disgusts me. I’m disgusted with myself because I feel like I’ve been wasting precious time, precious time that my friend and brother Ted Agu suddenly ran out of this morning. What hurts the most is that Ted wasn’t wasting his time. Ted was squeezing every last drop of productivity and life out of the time he was given.
After being told that Ted "didn’t make it" by one of the strength coaches, I just aimlessly wandered around the player’s lounge and locker room in disbelief, hugging everyone I saw, with tears creeping out all of our eyes. A few of us eventually decided to just sit around his locker and reflect. His Blue Nike bag with #35 on it just sat right on his locker where he left it. It was an eerie feeling when we heard his phone ringing from within his locker, I traded looks with another brother knowing that whoever was calling was never going to get to reach him. All of the confusion racing through your head, searching for a way to make sense of such a sudden disaster, it leaves you without a coherent thought. So I’m sitting there trying to get my head to just produce something that I could articulate, and I just couldn’t. I was on auto-pilot. I stayed composed and calm and I held & hugged a few of my brothers while they couldn’t do the same. It wasn’t until I reached my car where I just sat down, got my phone out, called my mom, and cried my eyes out.
On the way home, all I could do was think about all the amazing things that Ted had already accomplished, and was destined to do in the future. There were so many things about how special of a person Ted was. He was pre-med, he was a walk-on who earned a scholarship, he recently had crossed into Omega Psi Phi, he was even planning an exchange trip to Europe after the season was over, but more importantly he was an honest, open, and loving friend, a great man, and a brother in every sense of the word, as well as all the things even I didn’t know about his life. So it made me smile during my contemplation of who he was to know that his hard work and action had made him an influential member of his community. But I smiled even harder when it registered with me that everyone who knew him felt the same way about Ted as I did. To know to Ted was to love Ted, and you wanted to know him because he was such a driven person.
It was his drive that really resonated with me because I have been feeling complacent for some time now. So when I got home I felt like I needed to pay respect to Ted the best way I knew how, which was being productive. I needed to cope with his death somehow, and I felt like writing would help me come to terms with the grief. And so I opened up Microsoft Word and tried to write everything I was feeling at the time. But nothing made sense. I ended up typing out a facebook status about how I was feeling. That’s when Lindsay texted me and asked me to write something that she could put up on a blog. I thought it would be a great way for anyone who didn’t know him, to find out what kind of guy he really was. So I agreed to write about memories I had that would be emblematic of him.
I ended up getting a serious case of writers block trying to write about Ted. It was a comforting writers block though. It felt like all the awesome and pleasant anecdotes I had about Ted were trying to squeeze through the same door and they all got stuck. And I just sat there unable to process the shock or the pain or the confusion and I just let all the warm, fond memories of Ted smiling and laughing overwhelm me.
Originally I decided I was going to focus on and write about my last encounter with him, because it was a nice little anecdote about how much initiative and confidence he had. It was a brief encounter about seeing him in the player’s lounge writing something up on the computer. I asked him what he was working on, and he responds "Oh I have an idea for an app so I’m drafting up the idea to pitch to a developer" he explained his idea to me and I actually thought it was a great concept. The whole encounter made me realize how much of a different breed Ted was. Because I knew that if I ever had an idea for an app I would just toss it out of my mind and tell myself to stop being unrealistic. I realized then, that even as an older brother to him, as a guy who took him under my wing when he was a young buck, he was still an inspiration to me.
But then it dawned on me that that’s the side of Ted that people always see. Everyone who knows him knew he was driven and outgoing and friendly. So I decided to focus on the last time I really talked to him. It was a summer party at Berkeley’s Rochdale co-op. I had just moved back down to Berkeley to finish up school so I hadn’t seen him in a while. When I saw him he lit up like he always does, opened his arms up and greeted me with a smile & a hug. I asked him how everything was going and congratulated him on joining the Ques. He started off with the default answer of "oh everythings good, you know, just school and ball" and I took him aside and lightheartedly said "don’t give me that bullshit generic answer, whats been goin on with you?" I remember all of this because he smiled a frustrated smile and then began telling me about the things that really weigh on you as a man playing college football. Like his struggles with staying on top of school. Like feeling under appreciated and over used. His frustration with the depth chart. That he wasn’t sure if he was going to finish out his last year of eligibility. The underlying tone was that he was frustrated with a few things including football. And so I told him my opinion on what he just expressed to me. I told him a few things. I told him it seemed to me like he was devoting more of his attention and energy to his fraternity and not enough to football. And I told him that he was so talented in so many things that he didn’t need football, and that he really should consider bypassing his last year to focus on developing himself outside of football. But I told him if he did decide to keep playing, that he needed to commit himself back to it because it wasn’t worth his time to do it half assed. I never thought I would be so painfully right. He said thanks and that he really needed to hear that, I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation went. But I do remember that it was such an honest moment & conversation with someone who I really had always taken an interest in.
This memory I have of Ted means so much to me now because for a few short minutes it wasn’t the Ted you always saw. He wasn’t laughing and smiling, he was showing how stressful and hard things for him really were, but if I didn’t have that experience with him then I would’ve never really appreciated his drive, because his constant hard work and outgoing disposition just made everything he did seem so ordinary. It was to the point where you just expected that out of Ted and you never heard complaints. And that’s what I will cherish the most about Ted Agu. He always showed up to work harder, and smarter than anyone else, and he’d do it without the guarantee of being rewarded and he would do it with a smile on his face. I think it was because he knew he was getting the best out of it.
Over the course of the day I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me to provide support, and one quote a friend sent to me really meant a lot. It read, "To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die." Ted will forever live in so many hearts, as a young man who inspires us, and hold us accountable to do more with the time we have here.