The murder-suicide of Jim Tyrer and the family he left behind

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As a youth plying the highways of the Midwest for his sales job, Brad Tyrer interrupted street hypnosis with the radio, navigating the dial whenever he heard his father’s name on sports talk shows, and tuning in. used to do.

“I can’t remember how many times I would pass out in the middle of driving my job and there would be a discussion about NFL Hall of Fame people and they mentioning my father,” Tyrer said. “It was like, ‘I can’t believe I hear about him in the middle of Iowa,’ and they’re talking about why he’s not in the Hall of Fame, and it was just curious. “

Jim Tyrer, a standout offensive tackle at Ohio State, played in the AFL for the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs from 1961 to 1973 and spent one season with Washington before retiring after the 1974 season. When he won three AFL titles, lost to the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl, and won Super Bowl IV, he was a hotbed of Texans/Chiefs offenses. a member of all-time afl teamTyrer seemed to be a shoo-in to join eight of his former teammates in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which will hold its annual induction ceremony this weekend in Canton, Ohio. Yet he fell short of the required votes. in 1981His name has come up for vote only once.

Rick Gosselin, a 19-year-old member of Hall’s senior committee and former NFL and general columnist for the Dallas Morning News, described Tyrer as “the most qualified candidate in the senior pool” in an email. There are hundreds of players in that pool and Tyrer is the only player to have been a first-team All-Pro, six times. If you’re the best at what you do for six NFL seasons, you’re a worthy Hall of Fame candidate. Beyond worthy, really. ,

Then it happened on the morning of September 15, 1980, when three of their four children were sleeping in their suburban Kansas City home, 41-year-old Tyrer shot and killed his 40-year-old wife, Martha. His bedroom before pointing a gun at himself.

“After that we all knew something wasn’t right,” said Stephanie, Jim Tyrer’s youngest daughter. “It wasn’t the man we knew. . . . you feel like there must have been something you could do or something you should have identified with. Even though I was 12 or 13, still There’s a little bit of guilt. Why didn’t we pick up on anything, or why don’t we know more? . . . Maybe she didn’t even understand what was happening to her.”

If Jim Tyrer is never elected to the Hall of Fame, his legacy is safe in the lives of him and Martha’s children. To help remind people of their father’s skills, if nothing else, the children told the story of their parents, one with their own resilience and success, in one emotional documentary by filmmaker Kevin Patrick Allen. After all these years, his memory of the shots that woke him up – and how he hid until he emerged to discover the terrifying scene – can still shed tears.

They remember Martha as a wonderful mother who attended all of their sports, Jim did it as often as he could. But like so many former athletes in a story now all too familiar, Tyrer struggled to navigate life after the sport, finding himself financially at a time when few professional athletes had to make ends meet. Season jobs were required.

“I was 17,” Brad, the older of the Tyres’ two boys and a high school football player, recalls the evening before September 14, 1980. “I was on my own. I knew my dad would go to work and come home at night, but I didn’t really know what he was doing. The night it happened, I was in my room very hard Was lifting weights because I was trying to get bigger – I was actually measuring my biceps.

“My dad came, probably around 9, and he basically had a conversation with your eldest son,” he continued, a little choking. “He interacted with me like he knew he would never see me again. At the time, it was completely out of context and I was focusing on something else. Looking back, I find that conversation very Remember well. He was saying: ‘You are a good son, and I am proud of you. You need to take care of your siblings.’ It was just out of the blue. I was like, ‘Okay, Dad.’ That was probably about 20 minutes of conversation, but I know he already knew he was going to do something.”

Jim Tyrer spent his last afternoon with 11-year-old Jason at a Chiefs game. The child of the family, Jason Tyrer, recalled that his father was loving but not overly affectionate until that game. “They didn’t hug us very much, but that game they did. I kind of got it — it felt unusual, you know?”

‘Not even half an inch thick’

Jim Tyrer, who stood 6-foot-6 and weighed about 300 pounds, was known to have a massive head that led his teammates to jokingly call him “The Pumpkin”. Teammates “would joke that Martha would stick her head out for the kids on Halloween,” Dave Hill told The Washington Post in 1980. Ben Davidson, the Raiders’ formidable defensive end, once joked that Tyrer “basically wore a big red trash can as a helmet.”

In a time when detractors could not use their hands and there was little awareness of the dangers of head injuries, recurrent head trauma, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy – or CTE – the head was a weapon to be used as a weapon. Tyrer drove fearlessly, playing 180 games in a row. Stephanie, a pediatric surgical nurse at a Kansas City hospital, was a week away from her 13th birthday at the time of the shooting. She remembers her father’s special, giant helmet from Ohio State, one marked with her name because no one else fits her.

Tyrer was never diagnosed with CTE, which was not recognized by scientists until 2005 and can only be determined postmortem. Tyrer’s autopsy stated that “no internal abnormalities” were identified in his brain, but, “the more we have learned and the more we know,” Stephanie said, “I can certainly see her. Along with what I actually think, I get comfort.”

Tina Tyrer Moore, the eldest of four children who were in college when their parents died, has an old helmet. The padding, she said, “isn’t even half an inch thick.”

Brad doesn’t remember any specific conversations about whether his father was hurt, but he did talk a lot about the “headache” and it seemed that the pain had nothing to do with the helmet which Too small to fit on my dad’s head,” he wrote in an email. “Since they couldn’t get the outer helmet shell big enough, I do remember some saying they would remove the material (padding and suspension) from the inside to allow more room.”

Tina recalls that her father complained of a headache and also consulted a doctor.

Brad recalls “a lot of talk about my dad’s head ache…

falling into the grip of tragedy

Martha’s parents, Truman and Lucille Cline, moved in with their three grandchildren, who were at home after their parents’ deaths, and provided them with love and protection. Tina left the University of Missouri to move back to the area to be closer to family, and became a successful hairstylist. Truman, a Purdue engineering graduate, was the example needed in overcoming the tragic loss to children. He lost both a leg and an arm in an auto accident as a young man and became an inventor who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Architecture and Transportation Constraints Compliance Board. Brad said, “Klins was the embodiment of resilience, sending the message that “we have to keep going.”

Now a 59-year-old businessman and father of two sons who live in Louisville, Brad briefly focused on football and, a few days after his parents’ death, went to Rockhurst High, a Jesuit all-boys school. I got back on the field. Traditionally a Missouri football power. Led by quarterback David Cohn, a four-time World Series-winning pitcher, the team had state championship aspirations that year, and the ground was where Brad felt he belonged.

A few days later, he kicked the winning field goal in a game against Shawnee Mission West. A newly born Christian, he made his peace with the worst night of his life, just days later.

“After the funeral, everyone came to our house and it was just packed,” he said. “Everyone was there – [Chiefs owner] Lamar Hunt and his wife, a lot of sportsmen and their wives, all kinds of people settled in this house. To go the farthest I went outside and sat on the concrete patio slab. When God came to me I lowered my head and was kind of whispering and it was like: ‘Snap it. why are you sad? You had two great parents for 17 years. you know nothing. You have nothing to be sad about. And it was like a lightbulb was going on. I was at peace with it then and there. ,

Jason, who played for two state championship teams at Rockhurst, played football at the University of Kansas. The father of three boys, he owns a flooring company in the Kansas City area.

The circumstances surrounding both his death and the murder of his wife changed Tyrer’s Hall of Fame trajectory. His chances have been slim as recently as this year, when Hall’s board of trustees Increase in the number of senior officials From one to three due to backlog of candidates who ended more than 25 years ago. For the 2023 to 2025 classes, a maximum of three motivators can be selected per year, and the selection committee recently selected only wide receiver Otis Taylor from those same major teams, getting ahead for the next round of voting.

A few years ago, four Tyrer kids split their father’s things and were again reminded of what a great player he was. He shares his story in the documentary, but is realistic about his father’s Hall of Fame opportunities.

“None of us were really upset or disappointed,” Brad said. “I would think about it but only occasionally. . . . We’ve talked about it as a group and naively thought: ‘Maybe? Who knows?’ As we thought more about it and learned more about it, we thought maybe Kevin did the film and if it worked out, maybe Dad would get another look.

The Tyres are comforted to know that much of their father’s football legacy is protected. He is a member of Ohio State’s Hall of Fame as well as the Chiefs. And he has been featured in the Pro Football Hall of Fame performances of members of the AFL’s all-time team. But they want acknowledgment, if not recognition, then for Martha. They know that the wives of the players carry the heavy burden and their role is less.

If it does not come, they have reached the level of understanding. Stephanie refers to this as “perspective”, which meant for her not to choose children, instead preferring to help other young people.

“I have a lot of context to compare myself to, in the sense that I see some kids who are in such difficult situations,” she said. “I know that my story is nothing compared to his life or the challenges he faced. It gives me a lot of perspective — it shaped the way I see the world.”

With that foundation came an understanding of what happened on a September morning nearly 42 years ago.

“I don’t think any of us think we’ve lived a remarkable life in terms of what we’ve done,” Brad said. “I think we’ve all lived the life our parents would have brought us to live.”

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