As the 2016 football season is winding down, it has been a challenging season for the Crown College Storm. Some changes in the coaching staff brought about a change in offensive philosophy and some growing pains ensued that will reap great benefits for the team next season.
While the offense has been working to grasp Offensive Coordinator Matt Bremen’s new schemes, the defense has been as solid as any in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC). A big key to that success has been the play of defensive lineman Tyler Byrd who, in just his sophomore season, has been a dominating force for the Storm. He has established himself as one of the most dominant lineman in the conference and looks to only be getting better.
An Odd Road to Become Royalty
While the skills are truly exceptional, the path that led Tyler Byrd to Crown College is equally so. Raised in Montevallo, AL, Minnesota wasn’t just a different kind of culture from where he was raised, but was a whole new climate.
While starring on the gridiron now, it looked like that his time on the football field may be limited. After begging his father to let him play football when he was four, his dad finally relented. Tyler felt a kinship with the sport that had its roots in his family.
“I don’t know what it was about it, I just think it was that my grandfather played football and to this day he holds the record for rushing yards at my old high school. I just wanted to follow in his footsteps because me and my grandfather are really close. I begged my dad and my dad wouldn’t let me because he was afraid that I would get hurt and I wouldn’t want to play anymore.”
While his dad’s fears did not come to fruition, when he reached the eighth grade Tyler had second thoughts about playing football. He actually quit, deciding that football was simply not for him anymore but, after a little coaxing, he opted to return to the field.
“I just didn’t want to play and decided to quit. My coach came and he asked me to come back. I didn’t want to but my dad told me to just give it one more year, go play and if you don’t like it then you’ll be done. I went back and I just loved it. I just fell in love with football again. It’s just a way of getting out my anger because whenever I was little I was always running around and it was just such a great way to get all my frustrations out.”
Tyler continued playing into high school, attending Evangel Christian School. There he starred for the Lightning, leading the team to a 12-2 record in his senior season and a second place finish in the Alabama Christian Conference. He was a star for the team, and earned a great deal of respect from his high school coach.
“Tyler’s thing is delivering bone-crushing hits,” explained Lightning Head Coach Don Murphy. “He’s got good speed. 4.75 (second 40-yard dash) speed. He played noseguard for two years and moved back to middle linebacker this year. He is a disruptive force as a linebacker.”
With such incredible success he was offered many scholarship opportunities to play Division-I and Division-II football, but was looking for a little different kind of experience. That made Crown College the perfect choice for the then senior.
“It’s completely a God thing. I had some really big offers from other schools. I came up here and visited and I just felt at home. I didn’t feel like I was 17 hours, 18 hours away from home. I was at home! I was with my family from the moment I walked through the door. They just made me feel comfortable.”
Something to Prove
The choice to play at Crown was a very calculated one for Tyler Byrd. This was not only about getting a great Christian education but he also wanted to prove that players who attended a small high school like he had deserved the same kind of look that players at other types of institutions were receiving.
“I also see the opening because my school was a really small school, not a very big school. I had a lot of people, a lot of NFL coaches who came in to talk to me about how I should be playing higher football, but because of how small my school was I couldn’t. I see this as an opening because no colleges looked at my school.
“There were a lot of players on my team that wanted to play college football but we really didn’t have the chance to get seen even though we had a great football team. This has been an opportunity to open some people’s eyes. I want them to say, ‘He’s got a good work ethic, he does what he’s told to do and he’s really good at it.’ I want them to see that and think that they maybe should start looking at some of the smaller schools instead of overlooking them. I truly believe that we have some good things happening there. We just don’t get the attention.”
While opting to attend the college in St. Bonafacius, MN, Tyler was not believing that this was denying him any kind of future aspirations. He has the skill set and the tenacity to be a top flight lineman or linebacker and thinks that this could still lead to him having the opportunity to become an NFL player one day.
“I’m still looking for an opportunity to have a professional career. I was going to go to junior college that was ranked eighth in the country and that would’ve set me up for a better situation to go to Division-I school. But I knew it was best for me that I was going to go to Crown. When I went to the junior college I felt that I was out of place. It just didn’t feel the same. I went home and I thought of it and I realized that no matter what happens, no matter where I go, if I’m going to go to the NFL, God’s going to provide a way there. I could go to the biggest D1 school in the world and still not make it because there’s multiple people that don’t do that each year. If this is God’s plan for me to go then I’ll go.”
A Storm in His Own Right
Since arriving on the Crown College campus, Tyler Byrd has been a key piece to the Storm defense. In his freshman season, he led the team with 4.5-sacks, and added 54-tackles, fourth on the squad, including 10-tackles for loss. That also led the team.
The performance was quite impressive, especially considering that at 6-2, 240-pounds he is quite undersized in comparison to many of the offensive lineman he faces off against. Despite this, he has continued to dominate his opponents, which is not a surprise to Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Sather.
“Tyler Byrd is way too small to play upfront but he makes up for it with a ridiculous motor. He is as tough to try to stop as any player I have ever coached.”
The numbers continue to prove that to be true. This season he has been no less relentless, tied for the team lead in sacks with four and adding 43-tackles. His nine-tackles for losses rank second on the team and he seems to just be getting better. Once again, the success is not a surprise to his defensive coordinator.
“It’s one of the big advantages that we have because he demands double and triple teams. Tyler is so quick off the ball and has such a ridiculous motor that you can’t expect one guy, or even two for that matter, to be able to stop him on many plays.”
Thankful for His Success
Tyler Byrd came to Crown College because the most important part of his education was to draw closer to God. While he loves football very much, it is his desire to serve and honor God that is the focus of all he does.
“I was raised on a farm and I was always taught to do everything to the best of my ability and give God the glory.”
It is not just his Father in heaven that he credits for the success that he is having. It starts with the two people who brought him into this world and who have raised an absolutely amazing young man, even through some of the most challenging of times.
“No matter how bad I got, my parents were always there for me. They have always been there for me, always there to lift me up. They never stopped me from trying something new; they’ve always encouraged me. From that I just grew stronger and stronger and eventually I just went to a Bible camp and I saw that I was in the wrong, that I was straying from what I believed. Then I came back to it and I apologized to my parents for doing that. Now we’re closer than ever. My mom always came to everyone on my football and baseball games. It hurts her that she can’t be up here to watch me play. She texts me every week about how sorry she is that she can’t be here. She wishes she could be here. They just have always been there for me.”
He also feels quite blessed for the coaching staff and what they have meant to him. He acknowledges that they were a primary reason why Crown College was his choice to spend these academic years.
“How much they cared about me. It wasn’t like I came here because of a big ego trip like I will come here and they will give me whatever I want. Instead, it was if you come here we will help you grow. We’ll be with you every step of the way. We’re family here. I saw that here and I just wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be a part of the family instead of just being another player.”
Tyler was born into a great family, accepted a great family in following Jesus, and was adopted into an amazing family when he joined the football team at Crown College. However, there is going to be one more addition to Tyler Byrd’s family. The sophomore is engaged to his high school sweetheart, and she also attends Crown. He credits her for a lot of the success he has had at the college.
“I love my fiancé. Gotta put her there and she’s just amazing. I love her with all my heart and I thank God for her. Half the stuff here at college and half the stuff going on in my life I couldn’t do it without her being there for me. She’s just been a huge part of encouraging me.”
A lot of people have helped to mold the amazing young man that is Tyler Byrd. They have helped to make him a better student, a more devout Christian, and an amazing young man. They have also played a part in making him one of most feared forces in all of the UMAC. He has proven himself to be one of those kinds of players that teams have to spend extensive time figuring out how to develop schemes to stop him each Saturday afternoon. Sadly, for them, they will be spending two more seasons trying to figure out how to stop this incredible force of nature.
By Robert Pannier