Remembering Ted Agu

Student-athletes and members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, led an evening candlelight service last year.
Katherine Chen/File
Student-athletes and members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, led an evening candlelight service last year.

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Editor’s Note: Feb. 7 marks the one year anniversary of the death of UC Berkeley student and Cal football player Ted Agu. To honor his memory, teammate and friend Brennan Scarlett wrote the following piece: 

I am only one of the many lives that Ted Agu touched — but I feel it necessary that his story be told. Whether or not one knew him personally, the lessons Ted offered are invaluable and can be appreciated by all.

Ted was a football player, a devout student and an active member in the UC Berkeley community. He was the first to turn up when the beat dropped in the locker room. He was the guy who frequently devised schemes to conquer the world. Ted was a figurehead. Ted was a mentor.

Ted was my friend.

One year ago, on Feb. 7, 2014, I drove with Ted and a couple of teammates to our daily 6 a.m. workout at Memorial Stadium. That was our last ride with Ted. He collapsed and died during the middle of the workout that morning as a result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

In the three years that I knew him, Ted taught me the values of a strong work ethic and patience. He reminded me that I should work not only to reap the fruits of my labor but also to find satisfaction in the act of completing the task at hand. He stressed that I had a responsibility to devote myself to whatever I deemed personally important —  regardless of the time or effort that it required.

I spent some late nights studying with Ted. I’m talking about nights so late that the security guards who regularly kicked students out of the study rooms at the High Performance Center became familiar faces. Nights so late that we had to figure out which rooms the security guards didn’t check so that we could be free to study for however long we needed.

Often, I was stuck studying until Ted was ready to leave because I was his ride home. Those long nights were filled with refrains of my chiding Ted to hurry up so I could “Take my ass to sleep.” He’d respond, “C’mon man lemme just finish this last problem,” or else, “B. Scar, you know you not done studying bro.” I would shake my head, knowing that he was right, and get back to work.

Late nights were followed by early mornings of conditioning routines. Whether we were performing 300-yard sled pushes or 16-by-110 yard sprints, Ted was always in the corner of my eye as he moved swiftly with that gimpy, but somehow efficient, gait of his — running neck and neck with me as we competed to the finish. Whenever Ted was in my conditioning group, I knew it was going to be a long day. There was no way in hell he would let me outwork him, and I was not willing to give him the satisfaction of thinking that he had outworked me.

Drills were never easy with Ted, but his unwillingness to take the easy route is why I loved him. The energy with which he consistently sought to motivate and empower me was one of the most beautiful things about him. Ted acted as though any reason to not reach one’s full potential usually panned out to nothing more than an excuse. And Ted didn’t make many excuses.

As football players, we compete against our opposition on the field, we engage with the unforgiving UC Berkeley curriculum, and we work to maintain the necessary discipline to succeed in both arenas. We also battle the stigma on campus that all we do is play football and occasionally pretend to learn something once in a while.

But Ted Agu was the perfect contradiction to this stigma.

In the way that he navigated a system that often fails to advance student-athletes, Ted strove to reach his full potential by means of careful planning and impeccable preparation. Ted did not sacrifice one aspect of his life for another — a model that I feel ought to be emulated by all student-athletes.

In the three extraordinary years that I knew Ted, he left me with memories and lessons that I will cherish for the rest of my life. In my last vivid memory of Ted, he showed me his designs for a mobile application that we planned to launch. This was our finale world-conquering scheme. Knowing he was one step ahead of me, he asked me with a smile, “Are you sleep..?” Maybe I was being lackadaisical. Or maybe Ted was always just one step ahead.

Thank you, Ted.

Contact Brennan Scarlett at [email protected]