Over and over again last week, as he prepared to sign a scholarship to play football at the next level, Tyler Worley heard about how Faulkner University’s gain would be Port St. Joe’s loss.
And as coach after coach talked of his surprise and happiness to be present when Worley signed his letter of intent to the NAIA college located in Montgomery, AL, the foundation of that sentiment was clear.
Here, in Worley, was a young man who had matured in more ways than physical, who had cleared so many obstacles, who had worked his way behind that desk to sign on the dotted line with parents, coaches, teammates and classmates in attendance.
His high school position coach Kesley Colbert summed it up.
“As good a football player as he is, Tyler Worley is a better person,” Colbert said.
Worley himself said he rarely gave playing college football much of a thought for most of his high school career.
His coaches, they said uniformly, didn’t necessarily picture it either.
Worley was undersized, particularly for the line, standing little more than 5-foot-9, if that, and weighing 160 pounds soaking wet when he entered high school.
But, his coaches said, Worley had two things you couldn’t teach: he didn’t quit and he was coachable, learning and buying into the discipline and dedication needed to improve, his Pee Wee coach Chris Butts said.
Colbert said the freshman lineman on the scout team was hardly impressive, hardly a star in waiting, save for his attitude.
Colbert told a story of a young Worley making a play during practice during which he made up for any error of X’s and O’s by sheer enthusiasm, coming over to the sideline with a grin and asking how he’d done.
That love of the competition drove Worley and he improved.
As Colbert said, improving from “absolutely horrible” to “terrible” during his freshman year on the scout team.
But as he grew, Colbert added, the light bulb went off.
“It kind of transcends football, you see a young man grow up, you see a young man understand about team,” Colbert said. “It’s not just about football, but about believing in yourself and putting everything into it.
“I enjoyed working with Tyler because he never got discouraged. You could see him grow week to week, month to month. He became a football player. You see a young man grow up, you see a young man understand about team.”
And Worley was also growing into his body. By National Signing Day last week he stood 6-2 and weighed 220 pounds, what Colbert called “the mainstay” of the Tiger Sharks line the past season.
Port St. Joe coach Chuck Gannon noted that in January 2012 Worley began to realize there was a horizon for his football career beyond high school.
He was one of eight players, Gannon said, to rededicate themselves to the weight room, showing up for every session as Gannon took the reins of the football program.
“Tyler bought in that he could play college football,” said Port St. Joe assistant coach Tracy Browning.
Gannon added, “He did a tremendous, but he got better and as he did he started to believe in himself.”
Then midway through his senior season a letter arrived in the mail for Worley.
The letter came from Faulkner University.
“They asked me to take a visit and I went up on Homecoming weekend,” Worley said. “They had a nice facility and great coaches.
“I’m very excited. I never thought I’d get the chance to play college ball.”
All the pieces fell into place and last week Worley, the scrappy kid who few envisioned playing college football just two years ago, was college bound.
Gannon said one of the advantages heading to Faulkner is that is fields a junior varsity team, allowing Worley a chance to become fully acclimated to college life and football for one year.
Worley said he was looking forward to a year on the junior varsity and said the goal now was to “just keep working hard in the weight room, get bigger and stronger.”
“Faulkner is getting a good one and it is a great opportunity for him,” Gannon said.