The Big Mac Blog

Former TCU high jumper gone far too early

Former TCU high jumper Aaron Anderson, 35, died on Wednesday night in Fort Worth.
Former TCU high jumper Aaron Anderson, 35, died on Wednesday night in Fort Worth.

Aaron told me on June 6th he would get back to me that week. He died on Wednesday night.

The truth is Aaron Anderson and I were not super tight. We played a lot of pickup basketball together at the TCU rec’ center, and I envied the man a great deal. He was good looking. Great smile. Funny. He made good money, I think. And he made everything look so easy.

He was a guy I wish I had had the chance to spend more time around. He was one of those guys who possessed a number of enviable traits without playing on any insecurity, or making you feel inferior.

Aaron died on Wednesday after a prolonged battle with a brain tumor.

He was a high jumper for TCU at the turn of the century; he is actually tied for the fourth-best high jump in school history set at a meet in 2000.

About a year after our good friend Richard Durrett unexpectedly died, a person of equal standing but maybe not quite the visibility is gone way too damn young. He was only 35.

Aaron’s death is just a reminder how quickly life is here, and gone. How quickly people come in and out of our lives, and that it takes so little to make such a positive impression.

A few months ago, Aaron agreed to let me come to his house in Aledo to do a story on him, to tell “his journey.” The timing never worked out. According to common friends, his health would improve, and then deteriorate, and then improve again.

The last I heard from him was June 6 when after several weeks of no response I received the following text message: “Thanks Mac. I’m doing OK. Just working on me.”

I asked him if I could see him, or the always helpless offer of doing anything.

“Thanks Mac. We are trucking buddy. I will let you know this week,” was his response.

I never heard from him again.

I had previously via text let him know that I was concerned; that a lot of people were worried and cared about him. In hindsight, that’s weak.

I had not played basketball with him but once in more than a year, and the guy was still considerably better than me even with a tumor in his brain, and his body noticeably thinner.

Aaron was a workout junkie. It was always highly amusing to hear him complain in his thick Minnesota accent about eating too much as he showed off his six-pack abs.

Doctors had discovered a tumor in his brain a few years ago when he was on a ski vacation with his wife while they were near Lake Tahoe, I believe.

After that, he went overseas to try to find treatments to combat his condition. His journey had begun with a complete lifestyle transformation that affected the diet to the spiritual. He had returned to his life, noticeably thinner – and he was already a thin man. The high spiked hair had been replaced by a buzz cut, most likely necessitated by treatments.

After we finished playing basketball that day, he spoke of his journey and the many lessons he learned. Namely, he learned what we put in our bodies is destroying us. From the plastics that contain our foods to the dentists that once filled our with silver, yet so few of us ever stop the practices. Many of us cannot because financially it’s not feasible.

Despite the weight loss, and the tumor, he was the same old Aaron. But he wasn’t. He never let on the difficultly of this fight. It never truly dawned on me that he was dying.

He wanted to tell his story – and of course I’m kicking myself now for not pushing - but the timing never worked.

Hearing of his death reminds me of the one time we played tennis in the summer of 2010, or maybe it was ‘11. He absolutely smoked me. He encouraged me, but Aaron was the superior athlete. The guy could fall out of bed and roll a perfect game in bowling, run a half marathon without training, or play basketball for hours on end.

After he finished crushing me in tennis – and this is the part I’ll never forget – we sat on the court and just talked. Just two people being candid, from his own dysfunctional upbringing to the unfettered admiration and love he felt for his wife, Vanessa. I never met his spouse, but unprompted he raved about how glad he was he had married her.

The guy I was envious of because of that jumper and good smile was someone I admired; he had been through the stuff, and he was OK. Maybe better for it.

Selfishly, I will miss him because I loved playing basketball against him. I was always disappointed he wasn’t there in those afternoons. I always knew he would go to his left on that jumper that seldom missed; I could never get a finger on that shot. Not once.

We finished playing one day and I made sure to tell him, “You are a hell of a lot of fun to play against.”

He said to me, “You are, too.”

It wasn’t patronizing, even though he was a lot better than me. I’d like to think he meant it. Aaron Anderson was just a good guy. A good guy that I, and so many others, will surely miss.

Services are scheduled at the Oak Room at Christ Chapel Bible Church at 3 p.m. on June, 22.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof