But Bartlett’s sister, who still lives in New York, ran across a relative of Williams’ this summer who revealed that he had died of a heart attack. It was not news Bartlett would deliver over the phone. Tuitt had been asking about his father, wanting to create memories that would last. Tuitt needed to know it was impossible face-to-face.
“He was shocked, saddened, and he cried,” Bartlett said. “He took it to heart.”
The plan, the reason he was doing what he was doing at Notre Dame, was destroyed.
“I just wanted to use the attention to try to see him,” Tuitt said. “Just use that exposure that I’m getting, that he could notice, and I could see him, ask him a couple of questions. I just wanted to see who he is, who he was. See what he looked like.”
The team learned of Tuitt’s loss in a meeting, but he didn’t speak of it much. He holds things in, and this was no different, anguish internalized and shielded from daily reality.
“I’d rather you ask him the question, instead of me commenting on it,” defensive line coach Mike Elston said. “Him and I had some candid conversations I’d rather not share.”
Said defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore: “He really kept things to himself. When (a teammate) loses somebody really close, you might offer your condolences, but that’s something I try to give him a little space on.”
So space and time and a gravel-tough mother’s example promoted healing. When Manti Te’o lost his grandmother and girlfriend in September, Tuitt understood and shared that burden.
Irish strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo has deemed Tuitt “as strong as anybody in the country.” So of course he believed he could lift everyone up at once.