I wanted to prove to everyone I could play division one college football. I was undersized. But I believed I could do it.
Football Offensive Lineman
2007: Walk-on, played in all 12 games starting last 5, Team record 8-4
2008: Starting Left Guard, Team record 8-4
2009: Starting Left Guard, earned a scholarship, Team record 9-3
2010: Starting Left Guard, Team record 8-5
Tyler started playing football in fourth grade. During high school Tyler attended division one college football camps hoping to impress coaches. Division III, II and I-AA schools looked at him. But no one offered him a scholarship. Both of his parents graduated from Troy University. Tyler’s dad asked him if he had considered Troy, which he hadn’t. Tyler personally delivered his highlight film to Coach Tony Franklin (Offensive Coordinator Louisiana Tech). A couple of days later Coach Shane Waston, receivers coach, called and asked him to walk-on.
WillofaChampion: What was one of your greatest challenges as a walk-on?
Tyler: I wanted to prove to everyone I could play division one college football. I was undersized. But I believed I could do it. Another big challenge was earning the scholarship to take the financial pressure off of my family.
WillofaChampion: At what point and why did you believe you could play at that level?
Tyler: I played high school football in the toughest region of Alabama; Birmingham -region 6A. I was playing against guys that were getting scholarships to schools like Alabama and Auburn. Against those guys, I held my own and sometimes did better. My senior year – the first year I started all season for my high school – I realized I could play with SEC (Southeastern Conference) talent.
WillofaChampion: Why were you able to hang with these guys if you’re undersized? Do you have great speed?
Tyler: I have a love for the game. I believe that when you love something you can accomplish a lot. Almost like mind over matter. I have been blessed with good foot work and quick feet. Some say I am gifted in that area. I also worked out a lot. Though I am 15 lbs lighter I can make up for that with strength. All of those things have worked together to help me achieve my success.
WillofaChampion: Compared to other players did you have to spend extra time running, lifting, and practicing or was it more about making the most of the time you had, or both?
Tyler: I didn’t watch scholarship players and think that I needed to do more than them. I just wanted to do as much as I could to be as strong as possible. I did stay after work-outs to do extra things. Our Strength and Conditioning Coach, Coach Schaughnessy, is one of the best in the nation and he helped us a lot. If you want to play at your peek you have to do the extra.
WillofaChampion: Did you have to be more mentally tough as a walk-on compared to scholarship players?
Tyler: Compared to a scholarship player, I’m not sure. But I am inclined to think yes. Being a walk-on means there is no guarantee. Being a walk-on means you will primarily be on the scout team. You come here wanting to be in the mix hoping in a couple years you make the traveling squad. So you have to prove yourself even more so than a scholarship guy. A guy on scholarship is here because the coaches liked something they saw in him. That is why they pay for his school, books, food, etc. If a Walk-on and scholarship player are equal, the scholarship guy will get the nod because they’re paying for him.
WillofaChampion: How did your teammates receive you?
Tyler: Whether you’re a scholarship player or a walk-on, you are expected to prove yourself. I joke with teammates now because when I first came everyone wondered who I was. They want to know if you’re a good character guy; someone that will make the university proud. Will you take care of your brother? Troy has had a lot of successful walk-ons. If you’re a player, you’re a player. No strife based on whether or not you’re a scholarship player.
WillofaChampion: How did your coaches receive you?
Tyler: Our offensive line coach, John Schlarman, was very straight-forward with me. He told me I would start from the bottom. But then he also told me he didn’t care if a guy was a walk-on or scholarship player, senior or freshman, he will play the best lineman. We have honest coaches that don’t play favorites. They want solid leaders that have a team attitude.
WillofaChampion: Why do you think you’ve made it when other walk-ons do not?
Tyler: I don’t know. People ask me about my success. Honestly, it is undeserving. It is a blessing. I truly believe God put me in this position for a reason. He gave me the athletic ability for a reason. It is simply His doing. Really, when you look at my high school and my stature, it just doesn’t make sense. So I don’t have a clear answer other than what I believe.
WillofaChampion: Who was there to support you during challenging times?
Tyler: When I first arrived I had a great group of friends that were there for me. My parents have also been there for me. My position coach cares about me. Our team was like a family. Faith, family, school, then football is what we believe.
WillofaChampion: What was the day like when you received a scholarship?
Tyler: Nothing like the high school seniors signing day. I just came to the coach’s office and signed two or three documents. But it was a relief. It took financial stress off of my family. My freshman and sophomore year I had to work a job. It took a couple of months for it to sink in, then one day it just hit me; even my meal plan was paid for – I got free meals every day. My roof was free, tuition, everything. It was a real blessing, completely undeserved.
WillofaChampion: How did you find out you would play and eventually start?
Tyler: Going into camp my freshman year I was the fourth or fifth string Center. The coaches must have liked what they saw because the next week I was back-up Center. That was great because it meant I would travel. But then the first game week I was also getting action as second string left guard. Coach then told me to be ready because I was going to get to play. I thought he just meant if someone got hurt or something like that. But I played about 35 snaps. That was really cool! I kept battling with that guy and splitting playing time 50/50. The week of Arkansas State, game eight, coach told us that whoever had the better week would start. He literally only told me three hours before the game that I was starting. I have been starting ever since.
WillofaChampion: What advice do you have for other athletes considering walking-on?
Tyler: Believe in something bigger than yourself. I get the honor and privilege of playing unto my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When you understand that, playing football and everything else in life is so much better. You realize you’re not doing it for yourself; you’re doing it for something better and bigger.
Believe in yourself also. Understand what you can do and don’t second guess it. Never say you can’t do it. Don’t quit. You may fail but not because you didn’t try. I was close to hanging it up myself but I didn’t want to turn 30, 40, or 65 years old and not have ever tried. You have to try.
Tyler majored in marketing and will finish his degree in December. He is working-out for an opportunity to pursue a career in the NFL.
Interview: July, 2011