Note: The following appears in the August 2019 issue of Orange: The Experience.
We lost two former Clemson football players just two days apart in July. On the Fourth of July, during a family picnic, Tyshon Dye, 25, drowned while swimming at Richard B. Russell State Park in Elberton, Ga. Two days later, in Augusta, Ga., Dr. Randy Smith, 75, died after fighting cancer for multiple years.
Dye came to Clemson as an ESPN Top 50 player in 2013. For three years, he labored behind current New York Giants back Wayne Gallman, Clemson’s fifth-leading rusher in history in terms of total yards. Dye was also limited by a series of serious injuries but did show his potential during his redshirt freshman year of 2014, when he had 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a late season victory over Georgia State. For his career, he averaged a solid 4.6 yards per carry. Dye played on two Clemson ACC Championship teams, the squads of 2015 and 2016, and, of course, saw action on the 2016 National Championship team.
Smith was the starting center on Clemson’s ACC Championship team of 1965, the first of three in a row for the Tigers under Hall of Fame Coach Frank Howard. While he had only lettered one year, he piqued the interest of NFL teams, as he was taken in the AFL “Redshirt Draft” of December of 1965 by the New York Jets, and he was the first Clemson player taken in an NFL Supplemental Draft of 1966. But Smith turned down the opportunity for an NFL career and decided to study medicine.
You might not see much in common between Dye and Smith other than the fact that they both played on ACC Championship teams that were mentored by Clemson coaches who graduated from Alabama. But there was one character trait they shared in that they had the respect of their teammates and “Clemson Nation.”
Dye graduated from Clemson in May of 2017 and then played the 2017 football season at East Carolina as a graduate transfer. His departure did not lessen the respect the Tiger coaches and players had for Dye, as they understood his desire to see more playing time.
After Dye’s passing, Dabo Swinney was quoted as saying, “All of our hearts are just broken. I can honestly say Tyshon Dye is one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever been associated with or coached. We’re just all heartbroken tonight, and we’re praying for his family and know that he’s been called home.”
An even greater showing of respect for Dye was revealed the day after he passed away, when former teammates J.K. Jay and Jonathan Meeks created a GoFundMe page and shared it on Facebook to raise money to help Dye’s family with funeral costs and other expenses. The goal was $25,000.
That figure was raised in one day, and double of that amount was raised in day two. Almost 500 people made a contribution, including former teammates, current Clemson players who did not play with him but knew of him, former coaches, current coaches and, most of all, Clemson fans who had an appreciation for how he had representedtheir program.
Dr. Smith was equally respected for his accomplishments. Dr. Smith practiced plastic surgery and hand surgery for over 40 years and served in various leadership roles, including as president of the medical staff, co-chief fund raiser for the Heart and Vascular Institute and Chairman of the Board of University Health, Inc., of the Augusta Hospital’s governing board.
Dr. Smith received many plaudits for his work as a volunteer surgeon in developing countries from 1982 to 2015, during which time he made 40 trips to the Far East, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa and Central and South America, where he performed reconstructive surgery primarily on children and young adults related to war wounds, cancer, birth defects and burns.
He was recognized for his humanitarian work by various local governments where he volunteered, as well as by the American Medical Association, the Medical Association of Georgia (Jack A. Raines, M.D. Humanitarian Award), the Rotary Club of Augusta (Paul Harris Fellow), the Georgia Hospital Association (Physician Hero in the Hospital Award), the Richmond County Medical Society (Civic Endeavor Award), the City of Augusta and Columbia County.
One of just five former football players to receive an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) from Clemson University, he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Clemson Alumni Association (2008) and the Steve and Margaret Bond Distinguished Athlete Award by the Clemson Athletic Department (2017).
God bless these two former Tigers as we honor the way they represented the football program and Clemson University.