One day after losing legendary head coach Jim Tressel, The Ohio State University picked up a commitment from a young man who wasn’t worried about who his head coach would be for the long-term. He wasn’t concerned with possible NCAA sanctions coming down on the program he loved, or what direction the win-loss trend line may be headed. Tyvis Powell was focused on his dream to wear the Scarlet and Gray, and nothing the NCAA or national media could say was going to stop that from happening.
“I’m not going to take my talents to another state. It’s about dedication to Ohio. I can’t leave. I can’t see myself going out-of-state to play my football.”
Good news for the football program, but the university got more than another in-state recruit when Powell committed.
“The football thing is second. Education is what’s first. That’s really what matters.”
Asked how he could possibly pick Ohio State during a period of time when ‘instability’ would be an understatement, especially over other offers – Michigan State, Cincinnati, Minnesota, West Virginia, among others – his response quickly raised a few eyebrows.
“I didn’t hear anything about the business school going down or falling apart.”
This kid can’t be for real.
Powell proceeded to finish up his high school studies and graduate from Bedford HS early in order to enroll as a freshman at Ohio State back in January rather than wait for June to get here. From there he spent his first college quarter, normally the biggest adjustment period of a young person’s life, earning a 3.5 GPA and proving to a coaching staff that wasn’t around for his recruitment that he belonged.
Alright, fine. Maybe he is for real.
As impressive as it would be, he’s not just a 6’4” 195-pound Division-1 student-athlete who puts the ‘student’ part first. He’s charismatic, well-spoken, always stays positive and has an innocent sense of humor to him. He also puts himself above the nonsense, a trait most his age simply haven’t developed yet.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, I happened to catch a tweet from him that was nothing less than heartbreaking, yet it wasn’t a surprise coming from Tyvis. While most of us were trying to figure out how to honor our fathers on their special day, be it through lunch or a phone call, Tyvis was keeping his situation in perspective and was confident enough to let it be known.
“Happy father’s day to the man who 4 years ago told me he wish I was never born. Thanks pops I made it without you!!”
Go ahead, take a moment to let those 140 characters or less soak in.
Nobody knows what Tyvis will do on the field during his time at Ohio State. Not me. Not you. Not his teammates. Not even Urban Meyer or Buckeye cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs . It’s far too early to tell. What we do know is that regardless of what cards he’s dealt in the process, he’s going to pay it forward.
About a month ago I was led to a post at the ever-popular Buckeye Planet forum that told a story of a young man who had the opportunity to talk with Tyvis. It wasn’t a chance meeting after this year’s Spring Game. He didn’t track Powell down through Twitter or Facebook. It was Powell’s younger brother who put the two together on the telephone after seeing an article the Plain Dealer did on the young Buckeye cornerback hanging above the kid’s bed. As told by the author of the BP post:
“(Tyvis) asked how my son’s grades were and asked if he wanted to go to OSU. My son said that, ‘of course my dream is to play football at OSU, but if I can’t I still want to go to OSU. I am a Buckeye, football or no football!’ Tyvis told him he felt the same way about OSU. He was OSU bound, football or no football. He, too, was a Buckeye…football or no football.”
Interested in getting a little deeper into the story I found the opportunity to talk with the author of the original Buckeye Planet post, Bill Armstrong, as well as his son Dylan, a freshman offensive lineman at Mentor High School.
Within his post Bill mentioned that, “(He’s) not only a true Buckeye, but Tyvis seems to get ‘it.’” I asked Bill what ‘it’ was to him. He made a few great points in answering, speaking to hard work and giving back, but one specific point seemed to fit the Tyvis I know perfectly.
“Looks to represent the university on and off the field in a manner that all of us will be proud of, and as a two-time alumnus from The Ohio State University, I really appreciate that!”
I asked Bill about the Plain Dealer article he had shown to Dylan, and what about it would cause him to take it to his son.
“When I read the Plain Dealer article, I was one alumnus that was so damn happy and so damn proud to have (Tyvis) be a part of the Buckeye Nation! I couldn’t help but think of Woody’s quote, ‘You win with people.’ Tyvis is exactly who that quote personifies.”
If you read Tyvis’ weekly blog posts at the end of 2011, Bill’s statement becomes very difficult to argue. He was honest and forthcoming. Energetic – yet humble. He was always thankful, and respectful, of the fans that would choose to read his work. It started to become less and less surprising and more and more just who he was. The fans grew to love Powell and what he stood for, but so did Dylan Armstrong.
“The thing that I read that made me such a fan of Tyvis was how determined he was to reach his goal and his work ethic towards his goal of playing college football,” Dylan said. “He went to an extra work out every morning. I really looked up to that. He was and still is a role model to me and I try to mirror the determination and dedication he has.”
Well, Dylan, I’m really not sure you could find a better role model as far as personalities go.
Tyvis pitched in with a couple of questions of his own for Dylan, asking how determined he was to being the best athlete he could be, as well as what he felt he could do to make his own teammates better – reminding him of the motto, “each one, teach one.”
“I’ll follow my coaches’ instructions to get better. I work out on my own to get better and I gave up pop while I’m training. I just need to work on my determination with my diet. I need to find/create an eating plan that I will follow.”
There were a few times in reading Tyvis’ blog posts from last year that were a little surprising as he talked about coming into Columbus and immediately being a leader with his new Ohio State teammates, specifically in the weight room. Which leads us to Dylan’s second answer.
“One thing I can do to make the team better is always give 100% whether it’s on scout team or on the varsity line. I can also push my teammates on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom to be the best that they can be.”
Dylan is just a freshman. Sound familiar?
Listen, I’m admittedly a little bias when it comes to Tyvis Powell after getting to talk with him quite a bit over the last nine or so months, but the facts of who he is simply cannot be denied. There’s a reason he’s succeeding on the off the field, at times against the odds. There’s a reason he’s become a fan favorite in just a few short months in Columbus. There’s also a reason why Coach Coombs may be tougher on Tyvis than anyone else in the defensive backfield – and why Tyvis still responds to that in a positive, productive manner.
It’s all he knows. It’s who he is.
Bill Armstrong had one final thought for me before the conversation came to a close, saying, “Tyvis’ brother told us that Tyvis talking to Dylan was just as neat for him as it was for Dylan.”
I have no doubt. He’s just a kid who apparently decided at an early age that no matter where he goes, how he gets there, or what happens between Point A and Point B he’s going to pay it forward. So he does.
He studies off the field and chooses to grind before, during and after his time spent on it. He pays it forward when the opportunity presents itself, interacts with the fans he’s chosen to play for and simply laughs in the face of the BS life aims his way. He’s just a freshman with plenty of dues left to pay, and Woody would have made sure he knew that, but he would have loved Tyvis Powell.