Tyler Dumm received some rather serious physical setbacks early in his life. He responded with the aplomb of the dismembered Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
At the age of two, Dumm’s eyes were afflicted by a cancerous condition known as retinoblastoma. Doctors removed both eyes and replaced them with unseeing implants: “‘Tis but a scratch.”
At 10, Dumm had bone cancer in his left leg, and it was amputated: “Just a flesh wound.”
After all, he still had his heart and his brain, and a man can go far with the passion, fortitude, and intelligence that they supply-if he’s willing to summon them. Dumm’s extraordinary willingness will be celebrated on Monday night, May 19, when he is inducted into the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame.
First and foremost, Dumm has excelled in the classroom at Carpinteria High and beyond. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in human biology, and now the 25-year-old is working toward a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Puget Sound. Dumm receives certain accommodations in school. His tests and reading materials have to be translated into Braille or an auditory format. One of his physiology classes at Stanford was Surgery 101, and he was aided by a lab assistant who helped guide his hand while he dissected tissue with a scalpel. He was the first blind student to take the course, and he earned an A-plus.
As much as possible, though, Dumm wants to be treated like a regular guy, and he sought that opportunity in athletics. He went out for track and field at Carpinteria and found two events he could do with no outside help other than the coaching for technique that every other athlete received: the discus throw and shot put.
“It was something I was drawn to; a very raw, elemental thing,” Dumm said. “You and this piece of metal: How far can you throw it? It suited my abilities well. I didn’t have to worry about running in a lane. When I showed up, Van Latham [the Carpinteria coach] had no hesitation. He said, ‘Great.'”
Latham said Dumm neither expected nor received any special treatment. “I remember one time when he would have been better off without our help,” Latham said. “It was a rainy day, and we warmed up by running in a hallway. One of our runners was supposed to guide Tyler, and he ran him right into a pole.”
Coley Candaele, the former Warrior football coach, had Dumm in a cardiovascular fitness class. “Tyler would jog while we played floor hockey,” Candaele recalled. “He wanted to play, so we made him a goalie. It was amazing. Any shot along the ground, he stopped. Either he had great ears, or he was one of the luckiest guys ever. He did have three posts: the two around the net and the one in his leg. We started shooting the puck in the air to get it past him.
“He’s a competitor in whatever he does,” Candaele continued. “Too many of today’s youth have excuses why they can’t. Tyler finds excuses why he can.”
Truth be told, Dumm was not a world-beater in his field events. “I didn’t win any meets,” he said. “My personal records were like 28 feet in the shot and 80 feet something in the discus-pretty pitiful when you look at the averages. What I got out of it was being part of something bigger, being part of a team. I was different but not separate.”
One of Dunn’s teammates-and a reason he didn’t win any meets-was Chris Gocong, a gifted athlete who threw the discus more than 180 feet. Gocong is a starting linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted him out of Cal Poly after he won the 2005 Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s outstanding Division I-AA defensive football player.
“You can’t compare what I’ve done with what Tyler has done after being wracked with cancer,” Gocong said last week. “He’s been so inspiring to me. Once you get past his blindness and the artificial leg, it’s just Tyler, my friend. He’s one of those guys you’re happy to know. He’s funny and really smart. We had a lot of classes together. I went into engineering because of him.” Gocong earned an engineering degree with a biomedical emphasis at Cal Poly.
Dumm said, “It’s still exciting to me that I was able to hang out with Chris Gocong and contribute to his experience.” The two of them, along with some friends, formed a heavy metal band in high school. Gocong played the bass and Dumm, naturally, was the lead singer.
“He’s a Renaissance man,” said Casey Roberts, a Carpinteria teacher. “Tyler does everything with passion. He joined a wrestling club at Stanford. He told me that if he took his leg off, he could wrestle in a lower weight class.”
Dumm said he relished the “primitive human interaction” on the wrestling mat. “As much as I love track, if there was wrestling at Carpinteria I would have done that,” he said. Other sports he has tried are body-surfing, horseback riding, and rock climbing, an activity he still enjoys. He also has traveled out of the country, including a cultural visit to Costa Rica with fellow high school students and a sojourn in Australia and New Zealand with his girlfriend, Beth Graham.
“When we dropped off Tyler at the home he was assigned to in Costa Rica, he was wearing shorts and the mother saw his leg,” said Joe Cantrell, another teacher. “She was worried about having him, but 10 days later when we picked him up, the whole family was crying because they were going to miss him so much.”
Dumm had another episode with cancer a few years ago when a tumor was removed from his abdomen. “It was a quick and easy surgery,” he said. “I have a higher risk of cancer than most people, but it’s not worth it to dwell on it.” That may be more difficult than it was when he was younger, he admitted. “It’s different as an adult. I have a lot more relationships. Life is more complicated.”
Coming home for the Hall of Fame award is one of the pleasant complications. Dumm expressed gratitude to his family-his parents, Roger and Susan, who never held him back, and his younger brother, Ryan-and to the entire community. “It’s such an honor for me to be a valued member of the community,” he said. “The efforts of all the coaches and teachers and the Athletic Round Table are very salient in my mind. With my parents and friends, they’ve made up my life. I’m pleased to be a tangible part of what they stand for.”
The 41st Annual Round Table Banquet will get under way at 6 p.m. Monday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort. Other former standouts set for induction into the Hall of Fame are Nicole Sanchez (Dos Pueblos basketball, volleyball and softball), Micheline Sheaffer (Carpinteria track and field), Mark Mattos (San Marcos basketball), Jeff Jameson (Santa Barbara football, basketball and baseball) and Jeff Chaffin (Dos Pueblos and SBCC football). The coaching wing will welcome Clif Purcell (San Marcos track and golf), and Neil Wright will be honored for his years as a referee and umpire. Tim Tremblay will be inducted in the community leader category.
To attend the 41st annual Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable Banquet or see a list of the other honorees, see sbart.org.
Top Sporting Events: May 13-19
Wednesday, May 14
Run-walk-swim Night Moves at Leadbetter Beach, 6:25 p.m.
Thursday, May 15
High school baseball CIF playoffs, first round: Brentwood at Bishop Diego, 3:15 p.m.; Cathedral at Carpinteria, 3:15 p.m.; Southlands Christian or Sierra Canyon at Cate, 3:15 p.m.
Friday, May 16
College baseball UC Riverside at UCSB, 2 p.m.
High school baseball CIF playoffs, first round: Damien at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at Palos Verdes, 3:15 p.m.
High school softball CIF playoffs: Lompoc at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.
High school boys volleyball CIF playoffs, quarterfinals: High school boys volleyball CIF playoffs, quarterfinals: Laguna Hills at Santa Barbara, 7 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at Laguna Beach, 7 p.m.; Santiago at Bishop Diego, SBCC Sports Pavilion, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 17
College baseball UC Riverside at UCSB, 1 p.m.
High school track & field CIF divisional finals at Mt. San Antonio College, 9 a.m.
Sunday, May 18
College baseball UC Riverside at UCSB, 1 p.m.
Monday, May 19
Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table’s 41st Hall of Fame banquet, Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, 6 p.m.