Cameron Lyle chose to miss out on the Penn Relays this year. (Matt Rourke/AP)

University of New Hampshire shot putter Cameron Lyle chose to miss out on what would have been his final trip to the Penn Relays.  The 22-year-old senior donated bone marrow instead. (Matt Rourke/AP)

We hear so many stories about clowns
And clods whose ups are overwhelmed by downs.
So many athletes, young and rich and strong,
Who promise what is glowing go so wrong…
That when we hear a story of the sort
Of person who’s terrific at a sport
And also has the wit to see his game
As second to a higher sort of claim,
We’re bound to pluck that story from the pile:
And so, here comes the tale of Cameron Lyle.

He puts the shot for UNH, this Lyle,
And does it with sufficient strength and style,
That he has medaled time and time again,
And at the Relays held each spring at Penn,
The day of days for guys who put the shot,
He might have gone for gold, as like as not.

But one day, two years back, young Lyle agreed
That should some patient someday have the need
Of marrow from his bones, then he would give
That gift so that the stranger might then live.
The call came days before he’d have competed
And thereby seen his sports career completed,
And Cameron Lyle was not inclined to balk.
He told his mentor, “Coach, we have to talk.”

The coach shrugged once told the athlete “Kid,
I’m proud of you. I’m proud of what you did.”
And so instead of being at the track,
This fellow had a needle in his back,
As doctors pulled the marrow from his spine,
Which feels, I’m told, a lot less good than fine.
When they were finished, Lyle was weak and sore,
But he’d provided hope and something more,
To all of us discouraged everyday
By what so many athletes do and say
Without first giving anything a thought,
Until they break some law and then get caught.
In Cameron Lyle we see another type
Of athlete than we get with all the hype.
Devoted as he has been to his sport,
Today it is a pleasure to report
That he decided he’d forego that shot
At glory to assume, instead, this spot:
A person with perspective and the drive
To help a fellow person stay alive.

Read the profile of Cameron Lyle written by James H. Burnett III for the Boston Globe.