Austin Denton landed one last scoop on Monday.
The 18-year-old aspiring sports broadcaster known as “The Voice” of La Cueva High School athletics who was well known around the state of New Mexico for his broadcasting of high school sporting events, died early Tuesday due to complications from a tumor.
On Monday, several friends, former classmates, teachers and coaches from La Cueva and around the Albuquerque community stopped by to see Denton, who had been in remission for the past decade from battling a spinal cord tumor discovered when he was just 2 years old.
Among those who visited on Monday was his friend and former La Cueva classmate Connor O’Toole, one of the state’s most heavily recruited football prospects who plans to make his much-anticipated announcement of where he plans to play college football on Wednesday.
But first, on Monday he had to tell his favorite local sports journalist.
“Yeah, I told him when I went to see him Monday,” said O’Toole. “I didn’t really let others hear. Just him.”
But that wasn’t all O’Toole, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver who has been courted by the top college football coaches in the country for months, had to make sure to tell his friend.
“I just told him thank you — thank you for everything you did for me and our school and our community,” O’Toole told the Journal on Tuesday. “… Austin was a true leader. He was always lifting someone up. I can honestly tell you, I never saw Austin down, even as much adversity as that kid went through. I never saw him down. He never felt sorry for himself. He was always positive. He just embraced everything that he had. His struggles were a whole lot more than any of us could imagine and I never heard him even complain once about it. He was just so positive and grateful for what he did have.”
Denton was a huge sports fan, especially the La Cueva Bears and all things local, like the UNM Lobos, the Albuquerque Isotopes and numerous local UFC fighters. He often wrote about them on his own sports website, SportsAnytimeBlog.wordpress.com.
His mobility and growth were limited since the tumor was found and he went through years of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation treatment, but he never allowed his wheelchair or crutches stop his drive to become a sports journalist.
“It just has grown on me from a young age,” Denton said in a video for St. Jude Children’s Hospital earlier this year. “Now, I don’t let physical limitations even cross my mind at any point in time. I’m just hoping to be sitting in a broadcast booth somewhere, hopefully. That’s my goal.”
Numerous friends, coaches and sports teams from around New Mexico flooded social media feeds on Tuesday with posts about the inspiration Denton was for so many.
In addition to doing public address announcing at La Cueva sporting events, he was also hired by KQTM ESPN Radio 101.7 FM and by ProView Networks to help with high school basketball and football coverage since he was 14.
That and his lifelong relationship with St. Jude led to him being selected to interview quarterback Peyton Manning at Super Bowl 50. Denton, a big Denver Broncos fan, was at AT&T stadium in Dallas for the 2018 draft, where he introduced Denver’s first-round pick, Bradley Chubb.
“To me he was just a perfect example of resiliency based on what he went through with his childhood cancer,” said Brandon Back, head coach of the La Cueva football team. “… He knew he couldn’t be on the field, so he did everything he could to be a part of the team. His dedication and hard work to make this program great is something that will last for a long time. He never made an excuse. He showed up every day.”
The public is invited to a Celebration of Life memorial at the La Cueva High School gymnasium Saturday at 10 a.m. in Denton’s honor.
“So, for me, life’s moments — every moment counts,” Denton said in the St. Jude video. “You’ve got to seize the moment.”
Journal Assistant Sports Editor Steve Virgen contributed to this story