The three teens chose different places on their bodies for a tattoo of a cross.
Logan Hutson wanted one on his inner forearm, where he would look at it every day. Jacob Vance picked his shoulder.
Lane Morris decided to take up nearly the entire right side of his torso, from just below his armpit to his abdomen. His mother agreed to let him get the tattoo only if it weren’t too easily visible, he said.
They added flourishes, such as initials and Bible verses. While different, all three tattoos serve the same purpose — to honor their longtime friend, Tyler Genneken.
Morris, Vance and Hutson have created their own ways to recognize the legacy of their friend, who died from leukemia. From the cross-based tattoos emblazoned with Tyler’s initials to simple gestures before a game, the three Center Grove High School football players try to incorporate their fallen friend in everything they do.
“You can wear a shirt or a hat or lanyard and say something about Tyler, but none of it is permanent,” Morris said. “Tyler is a lasting mark in my heart, and I wanted something that would be there forever.”
As the Center Grove football team prepares for a game, Morris, Vance and Hutson have their pregame rituals.
Morris finds Drew Genneken, Tyler’s father, before every game and gives him a hug. On his wristbands, he writes “RIP” on one side and “TBG,” Tyler’s initials, on the other.
He and Hutson gather all of the running backs together to say a quick prayer. If one of them scores a touchdown, he points to the sky in honor of God and his friend.
“Everything I do on the field is for Tyler,” Morris said. “I know he’d like to be out there. It’s my way of showing him a little love.”
Vance, a 17-year-old left guard for the Trojans, prefers a solid handshake with Drew Genneken, a silent expression of solidarity.
“It reminds me of everything that the Genneken family has been through and how we give all of our success for Tyler,” he said.
They all had known Tyler since they were in elementary school. After he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2006, they rallied around him and served as his support group.
The four boys made the Genneken’s basement rec room their fortress for days at a time. Spread out on the couches and floor, they’d play video games for hours.