Tyler Rathbun stood on the field Nov. 3 at the College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe, fighting back tears after scoring the only goal for Shawnee Mission East during the Kansas 6A third-place boys soccer game — his final game as a Lancer.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Known for his infectious smile and pleasant demeanor, Rathbun had a way of lighting up a room.
“He was the kind of kid you wanted to talk to, wanted to be around and wanted to get to know,” SM East teammate and fellow senior Clint Dunn said. “I’ve never met anyone as charismatic in my life.”
Rathbun could reduce you to tears with laughter.
Today, the tears are for Rathbun, 17, who was killed shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday when the all-terrain vehicle in which he was riding rolled in a Miami County field south of West 395th Street.
The unidentified driver of the Polaris ATV was flown to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Two passengers escaped uninjured.
Only hours after the accident that claimed his life, Rathbun’s Lancers teammates gathered at Dunn’s house to reminisce about their fallen friend.
“It was good for the boys to get together and talk and cry and laugh a little,” SM East coach Jamie Kelly said.
And, of course, swap stories about Rathbun.
“With a guy like Tyler, it was just story after story,” said Dunn, who is organizing a benefit game in Rathbun’s honor. “There wasn’t just one thing, but he took pride in the goofiest things, like his hairy legs or his smelly dog.”
Later Sunday afternoon, the Dunns opened their door to all well-wishers.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if almost the entire senior class walked through that house in the last three hours,” Kelly said Sunday afternoon less than 14 hours after Rathbun’s passing. “It was amazing how many lives he touched and he probably had no idea.”
Kelly will retire Rathbun’s No. 14 jersey and dedicate a game to his memory next fall.
“At that time, we’ll give his jersey in a frame to his parents and brother,” said Kelly, who had coached Rathbun since he was 9. “We’ll probably also name an award for him. He was our team MVP two times, so we’ll probably just rename that the Tyler Rathbun Award.”
Not only was Rathbun, who would have turned 18 on Dec. 23, the Lancers’ top player, but also he was voted as the Sunflower League offensive player of the year and received all-league and all-state honors last season after scoring a team-record 22 goals.
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