Former Navy football player and U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer Tyler Tidwell passed away last week after a four-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. He leaves behind a wife and three children, aged seven, six and three-years-old.
Tidwell passed away on Saturday, Dec. 10, according to an Instagram post by the Navy Football Brotherhood. He was 37-years-old.
Stars & Stripes reported Tidwell was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2019.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks and kills the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This causes individuals who suffer from the disease to experience muscle atrophy and lose muscle control and movement. As the disease progresses, sufferers can lose their ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.
According to the ALS Association, the average life expectancy of a person suffering from ALS is two to five years after they are diagnosed.
Recruiters from a range of schools were trying to recruit Tidwell for their colleges when he was a high-schooler. According to Stars & Stripes, Tidwell knew from a young age that he wanted to join the military. Instead of going with the recruiters, Tidwell only applied to the three U.S. military service academies and ultimately ended up at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 2003.
Tidwell was one of the few plebes — a Naval Academy freshman — to make the varsity football team. Tidwell played for the Navy football team from 2003 to 2006 and became a starter in his junior year in a hybrid outside linebacker position.
In his 2005 season, Tidwell ranked 14th nationally with 19 tackles and set a single-season school record with 10 sacks. He was also named the Defensive Most Valuable Player of the Game for the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl.
After the Naval Academy, Tidwell commissioned as a Marine Corps infantry officer. Tidwell served for 13 years, and deployed three times in support of U.S. Central Command, according to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation.
Tidwell began experiencing ALS symptoms after his third deployment in 2018. He was officially diagnosed in the fall of 2019 and was medically retired from the Marine Corps in June of 2020.
Stars & Stripes reported Tidwell died shortly after the 123rd Army-Navy game ended on Dec. 10. A funeral was held for Tidwell on Friday, Dec. 16.
The Navy Football Brotherhood said that because Tidwell was not on active duty when he passed away, his family “will have a tougher time collecting benefits.”
Upon hearing of his passing, former Navy football teammate and Class of 2007 graduate Rob Caldwell started a fundraiser for Tidwell’s family through the Navy Football Brotherhood. The organization’s goal is to raise $100,000 for Tidwell’s family. As of Monday morning, the brotherhood had already raised more than $41,000.
In addition to his wife Cassi and his three children, Tidwell is survived by his parents Bobby and Janet and his brother Justin.