Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey to Undergo External Investigation Amid Allegations Against Coach


‘Public and Open Boss Fight’: Mass General Brigham, Hospital Trainees Spar Over Union Drive


Bacow Visits Alumni, Universities During Spring Break Trip to Middle East


Cambridge Police to Undergo External Review Following Police Killing of Sayed Faisal


Outgoing Harvard SEAS Dean Talks School’s Future, Says He’ll ‘Watch With Envy’ From Post at Brown

Medical Miracle: Tyler Neville Gives Back

Tyler Neville pictured with his family. Neville credits much of his strength and resilience to his parents and siblings.
Tyler Neville pictured with his family. Neville credits much of his strength and resilience to his parents and siblings. By Courtesy of Tyler Neville
By Derek Hu, Crimson Staff Writer

Upon first glance, junior Tyler Neville looks like your typical student-athlete: Hailing from Williamsburg, Virginia, and standing at six-foot-four and 235 pounds, Neville plays tight end for the Crimson, lives in Lowell House, and enjoys being a part of a team. Beneath the surface, however, lies an incredible personal story of strength and adversity. After years of dramatic health complications – including deafness, chest wall disorder, and cancer – Tyler Neville has transformed himself into a picture of resilience within Harvard and channeled his experiences to found the Tyler Neville Foundation.

When Neville was born without hearing, he quickly underwent surgery to place small tubes in his eardrums. As he grew up, Neville matured into a talented multi-sport athlete, playing football and basketball. But at age 14, he realized he often felt short of breath while exercising. Neville’s family consulted Dr. Eric Dobratz, who noticed a sunken area in the center of Neville’s chest — a revealing sign of Pectus Excavatum, a chest wall disorder. In August 2015, Neville underwent a Ness procedure, which placed a metal bar under his sternum and ribcage to correct the shape of his chest wall.

“Growing up was a struggle, but I didn’t know any different,” Neville said. “I worked hard to recover from whatever surgery I had so I could get back to what I liked doing.”

As Neville worked toward recovery, persisting through pain and participating in physical therapy became a normal routine. Until the metal bar was removed, Neville was prohibited from playing football but could still participate in basketball if he wore a protective vest.

About a year later, Neville felt severe discomfort in his chest. Neville’s doctor could not find any issues with the metal bar but instead noticed a small spot on one of his lungs. After performing a biopsy on an enlarged lymph node in Neville’s neck, the doctor diagnosed Neville with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

“I wasn’t expecting it. I came home from school and my parents sat me down on the back porch and told me I had cancer,” Neville said. “I cried and let my parents explain it to me.”

Despite the news, Neville insisted on playing basketball later that day in an attempt to maintain normalcy, setting the tone for his attitude throughout the duration of his treatment.

“As chemotherapy wore on, my body was getting weaker and weaker,” Neville said. “It was frustrating to be limited by the effects of chemo, but I conditioned myself outside of practice to combat the inevitable decline of my stamina. I wasn’t playing my best basketball near the end, but I was just glad to be out there.”

Neville explained that his strength comes from his family, who deals with challenges “head on” and as a cohesive unit. To provide emotional support for Neville during chemotherapy, his father and brothers even shaved their heads in solidarity.

“Our family naturally teams up when we need to,” Neville said. “We are each other’s biggest fans.”

Tyler Neville in a matchup against Princeton on Oct. 21, 2022 on Fan Appreciation Night. Harvard ultimately fell 10-37.
Tyler Neville in a matchup against Princeton on Oct. 21, 2022 on Fan Appreciation Night. Harvard ultimately fell 10-37. By Courtesy of Tyler Neville

By the start of Neville’s sophomore basketball season, Neville’s cancer was in remission. Despite the chemotherapy and protective plate, Neville made the starting lineup. By the spring of that year, Neville had grown so much that the metal plate had to be removed.

Now cleared to play football, Neville achieved great success in his sporting career during his junior year. In basketball, Neville averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds a game. As a linebacker and tight end in football, Neville had 18 catches for 404 yards and five touchdowns on offense, along with 36 tackles – 19 of them solo – on defense. Neville credits his team’s coaching staff, which included his father, for elevating his football game to the next level.

“Football just came naturally,” Neville said. “Being an athlete my whole life and growing up in an athletic family, I was always super competitive in whatever I was doing.”

With Neville’s football success came numerous college offers. He ultimately chose to attend Harvard because of the coaching staff and the contributions he believed he could bring to the team.

“Football could not have worked out any better for me,” Neville said. “I’ll graduate with the best degree in the world and have a shot at the NFL.”

Neville, now free from cancer, hopes to help those who suffer from the disease.

In April 2021, Neville quarantined in the Harvard Square Hotel along with other students who tested positive for COVID-19. During his isolation, he was struck by an idea.

“It was Day 6 in the Harvard Square Hotel, and I picked up the phone and called my mom,” he recalled. “I told her I owe it to everyone who helped me achieve my blessings to give back, so I’m going to start my own foundation.”

“I started the Tyler Neville Foundation because of the interesting perspective I had on cancer,” said Neville. As a 16-year-old receiving treatment in a children’s hospital, Neville found it heartbreaking to see many young kids undergoing chemotherapy. He initially considered hosting a few sports-related events for fundraising, but those ideas quickly evolved into the foundation.

“The goal of the Tyler Neville Foundation is to help children realize there is more to their childhood than IVs and drip bags," Neville said. "We try to give kids opportunities to just be who they are: kids."

“Don’t let [cancer] define you — still be that person you were before, don’t let your ailment change who you are,” Neville said as a message to those struggling with illness. “Look at it as a hurdle, not an obstacle."

"Always keep your goals in sight and keep pushing,” he added.

—Staff writer Derek Hu can be reached at

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.


Related Articles

The Nevilles