Army QB/ATH Tyhier Tyler (Photo: West Point Athletics)
A Liberty Bowl appearance caps a fantastic season for Tyhier Tyler and Army Football
by Jim McGrath, recruit757
Several players from the Peninsula region made an indelible mark on the college football landscape in the fall of 2020, most notably Butkus Award winning linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Bethel HS/Notre Dame) and wide receiver Dazz Newsome (Hampton High/Univ. North Carolina). Both players are expected to be picked early in the upcoming NFL draft, with Owusu-Koramoah, a first-team All-American, slated as a potential lottery selection.
But perhaps no player’s ascent to collegiate gridiron royalty this fall was more surprising than Tyhier Tyler’s.
Tyler (Class of 2022, 5-8 185), a 2017 graduate of Woodside High in Newport News, has successfully, and against stiff odds, made the transition from Wolverine triple-option quarterback under coach Danny Dodson, to high school graduate (with honors), West Point Prep school student, West Point cadet, football player, and finally starting Army QB in a remarkable four-year period that has blasted him on to the national spotlight as the result of several televised events.
In the first, Tyler, who was elevated to share the starting position in Week 6 with freshman Cade Ballard, helped to lead the Black Knights to a 28-16 win over the University of Texas – San Antonio. In that game, Tyler ran for 95 yards, which included a 37-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, one that proved to be the pivotal score as it stretched the Army lead to 21-10.
The following week, Tyler and Ballard combined to earn co-Commander-in-Chief MVP honors in a 49-3 win over Mercer. In that game, he led the team with 77 rushing yards while throwing his first NCAA pass (an incompletion).
Although the Knights record stood at 6-1, neither signal caller would play in the next game, a 38-12 loss to Tulane. Such is life when playing for a military academy team with a roster of 155 players, including six quarterbacks, all of whom saw playing time in 2020.
But Tyler earned the reins of the offense again just before Week 9, and led Army to a comeback 28-27 win over Georgia Southern. With 121 yards on the ground, he became the fifth Army rusher to top the century mark, a team record.
He would remain behind center for the final four games, including the prestigious annual Army-Navy game, a 15-0 Army win.
It was the Army-Navy game, seen by tens of millions of viewers worldwide, that Tyler earned his first showcase moment, and made the most of it, carrying the ball 19 times for 96 yards and the game’s only touchdown.
In the days following the win over Navy, he faced one more surprise encounter, from the Secretary of the Army, Gen. Ryan D. McCarthy, who presented Tyler with a commemorative coin from his office for “Outstanding Service to the Nation,” while letting his team’s quarterback know that he “liked my style of play.”
Finally, in the Liberty Bowl, Tyler and the Black Knights battled West Virginia for four quarters, only to fall short 24-21, ending the season with a 9-3 record.
In the Liberty Bowl, Tyler scored all three of Army’s touchdowns while rushing for 76 yards. The three rushing TD’s tied a Liberty Bowl record. For the season, he led the Black Knights with 578 yards on 139 carries with five TD’s), boosting the redshirt freshman to a first-team All-Independent honors at quarterback.
For the Newport News native, taking over the offense for his Army team was more about honoring the commitments to duty and honor that he has developed at the Point.
“Any time I get the chance to lead my teammates in a game it’s an honor and a blessing,” said Tyler, who is currently enjoying a mini-winter break before heading back to New York. “I love my teammates, so having the ability to lead them in the postseason meant a lot.”
He also expressed an obligation to the other team leaders. Speaking of the Liberty Bowl experience, he added, “The chip on our shoulder was our seniors. We wanted to send our seniors out with a bang, and we also wanted to show the college football world we belong. West Virginia was a very good team and very well coached. They were the better team when we played.”
Still, the accolades continue to pour in for Army, coached by Jeff Monken (43-21, and four bowl games in last five years). The Knights won the Commander-in-Chief trophy over rivals Navy and Air Force. And with many young players returning to key roles, the future looks bright over the Hudson.
For the next few weeks, however, there is reflection on the events of December. “Ultimately I am upset we didn’t come out on top, but looking around the locker room and evaluating myself, we gave it all we had and we fought hard.”
And the goals for 2021 remain intact. In a parting thought, Tyler looked ahead. “Our path to defending the Commander in Chief trophy starts now, and we will be back to getting over that hump of beating a Power 5 school.”
– Jim McGrath