As I continue my mini-series, "All Grown Up," a look at adult athletes who continue to train and compete at high levels of intensity, this story 100% made me smile. In fact, as I'm putting it together, I can't wait to share it with my daughter. Most of you know that R has been dealing with a knee injury for several months now, and she's starting to get frustrated. If you Google "for love of the game" you'll find a baseball movie starring Kevin Costner, but you should really find this story. Everything step of Tyler's journey illustrates complete love of the game - something we can all only hope to be lucky enough to find.
Give me your "football timeline" - tell me about the teams you've played on starting from the beginning.
I started playing organized football in the third grade through a flag football league in Mason City, IA. I started playing in pads in the seventh grade for Roosevelt Middle School in Mason City, IA were I served as the team’s starting quarterback. My freshman year I played on the freshman team and served as the starting quarterback for the Mason City Mohawks. My sophomore year I started at the sophomore level for three games before our senior quarterback went down with a season ending injury (broken jaw). I got the call from the coach when they were on the ride back from the game asking if I would like to play in the junior varsity game the following Monday against West Waterloo High School. I talked it over with my dad and agreed to play knowing there would be a chance to get varsity time in Friday’s game if I played well. I was in competition with a junior quarterback and we both made our fair share of plays in the junior varsity game against West Waterloo High School. We won the game and I got “the call” up to play on the varsity team.
I was excited it was homecoming week for us against our rival Fort Dodge High School, and there was a new traveling trophy on the line (Decker Sports Traveling Trophy). They didn’t like us and we didn’t like them which had the makings a violent yet great football game. I got the nod to go into the game about two series into the game, and didn’t do much we moved the ball but the drive ended on a poor decision on my part with an interception going into the red zone. I didn’t see much time after that as the junior quarterback took the remainder of the snaps. I was moved to a running back position after that game and stayed there the remainder of the season.
Enter my junior season for the Mohawks I primarily played junior varsity games because we didn’t have another quarterback to take snaps. I also played a lot of varsity minutes splitting time with the now senior quarterback from the year before. I was named the JV player of the year for the team that season. It was finally my time to take the reins of the offense my senior year. I was lucky enough to gain a lot of varsity experience, and attend multiple quarterback camps to put myself in a position to run the offense with success. The down side was I was coming off my ACL #1 surgery which happened during wrestling season, BUT I made it back just time for training camp to start. I was named Mr. Mohawk at the end of the season, which was a great honor, and received a few other team honors as well.
I decided after careful consideration to take my efforts to Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, IA where I initially majored in Athletic Training. I went in as a quarterback and after a few days of camp saw that I wouldn’t fit the system based off my height and asked to move to fullback hoping to make the two deep and be able to travel with the team. I learned really quick how to be violent at the point of attack on ISO blocks and POWER kick out blocks. I entered my sophomore season as the starter because the gentleman in front of me transferred out, BUT by the time training camp ended I was moved to the defensive side of the ball as a safety. Finally my senior year came around and I was listed as our third safety, which meant I was going to get more playing time. Fourth game into the season against Cornell College not even five minutes into the game my season ended. I was covering a punt in which I broke down in front of the return man and got hit from behind in the process of breaking down, Torn ACL #2 was the diagnosis.
I had surgery and helped our defensive back coach the remainder of the season. I finally got the green light to start competing again during spring ball after being granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA. Talk about some bad luck I made it through warm-ups and into 1-on-1’s and two routes in went to cut on an out route and went down… Tore the other ACL #3. I was given the option to have surgery and be done playing or fight like hell to get back for my redshirt senior season. I made the decision to fight back and made it back in time for conference play the following season. I went backwards in my career and was once again serving as a scout team player for most of the season, BUT to be honest I wasn’t at 100% and had no right to be competing for a starting position. My thoughts were to come back and finish what I had started and to be able to say I did it. I was given the chance to play on the kick off team and I couldn’t have been happier to be able to play again.
After all the injuries, what brought you to playing amateur football?
I started to play Adult Amateur Football during the summer of my junior and senior year at the risk of injury and having my college coaches upset. I did it to gain more experience and to be able to play the game I love dearly. I was a member of the Albert Lea Grizzlies in the SPFL in which my first season I was graced with new comer of the year. My second season with the Grizzlies we made it to the SPFL championship falling short to the South Central Hawgs. I played cornerback and quarterback for the Grizzlies in the two seasons I played. I didn’t play Adult Amateur Football again until after my Redshirt Senior season where I joined the Burlington Express. I served as their offensive coordinator and starting quarterback. The season was a struggle as we were a new team however we bonded as teammates - a few of us are still teammates today with the Midwest Rampage. I joined the Midwest Rampage in the SPFL the following year and started the season as the starting quarterback. Second game of the season midway through the second half I was run out of bounds and into a set of bleachers on the sideline in which case my knee buckled. I had an MRI done with a doctor I was very familiar with in Mason City, IA and was told my ACL in my left knee was not getting any blood flow going to it. In a roundabout way, he said you are without an ACL in your left knee due to having two surgeries. I will not operate if you continue to play football. He was not angry with me but he was real with me, and he gave me the option to rehab and continue playing. It took me the remainder of the season to rehab back and be able to play in the last regular season game and the playoffs. I came back as a role player and finished the season with the Rampage. I came back for my second season entering this time as an outside linebacker. We had a good season making it to the semi-finals and falling short in the last minutes. I was yet again graced with being a finalist for linebacker of the year and defensive MVP. I am now entering my third season with the Midwest Rampage and my passion for the game is stronger than it has ever been. I told my fiancé this season has me feeling like a kid again where I fell in love with every aspect of the game of football.
What has been the biggest life lesson you have taken away from football?
Understanding that teamwork and family are the most important things in life. Everything you learn in the game of football is applicable in just about any situation you get into. I also learned that if you truly love something, don’t stop doing it, enjoy what you do in life because you won’t always be given the chance to do so. Lastly the work ethic it takes to continue playing such a violent game is a work ethic that few can match, and that is something to be proud of.
Why, in such a high impact sport, do you keep playing now?
After having three ACL surgeries due to sports, I probably should stop playing. It is two things and my guess is it’s probably a little of both - stupidity and love of the game. I say stupidity because I know better than to push my body like I do, BUT it is something I love to do and I’m not ready to back away as a player. I still loving pushing myself to exhaustion in training and I love stepping on the field with my teammates working towards the goal of winning a ball game. I love the mental preparation that goes into getting ready for a game, understanding scouting reports and reading keys on opposing teams. I love the violence that is created at the point of contact on any given collision. I love giving a hit as much as I love taking a hit because that is a part of the game. So yes, I probably am a little crazy in the head, but at least I love what I’m doing and when I look back I can be happy about what I accomplished rather than thinking I wish.
Are there any connections you've found between coaching and continuing to play? Do you train the kids differently? Train yourself differently? Do they know you play?
With today’s generation of kids you have to change your coaching style. Not every kid will respond to a in your face style of coaching, and I learned that the hard way my first year as a coach. I’m much better at staying calm and talking to the kids, which gets them to respond and perform at a higher level - which is the complete opposite of how I play the game. I’m somewhat loud and obnoxious when I play because I like to bring energy to the team. I’ve always had good attention to detail in my personal preparation, which carried over to being prepared as a coach as well. Some of the kids know [I play, but] it isn’t something I flaunt around anymore. I’m proud that I’m still playing the game, BUT I leave it up to others to decide if they want to be involved with that aspect.