It’s a wonder Tyler Brown’s body isn’t covered with black-and-blue bruises.
From pinching himself.
It has been that sort of dream-come-true, once-in-a-lifetime, pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming football season for Marshall University’s senior linebacker.
It all started five years ago for the former Spring Valley High School star quarterback. After being a Kennedy Award finalist, Brown signed with Robert Morris University and actually was the starting quarterback as a true freshman.
But, then, Brown decided to come home and transferred to Marshall as a walk-on. He appeared in five games as a redshirt sophomore, then played in all 13 games in 2018, mostly on special teams.
That led to Brown’s final season of competitive football. Was his role going to be major or minor? Defense or special teams? Starter or reserve?
“Going into week one,” said the 6-foot-2, 219-pound senior, “we didn’t know who the starters were going to be. At that point in time in week one, I wasn’t a starter. I was a second-string guy, who was probably going to see the majority of his time on special teams.
“So, really it was a matter of staying focused and just being ready when that time came.”
That is when fate stepped in. In Marshall’s season-opening 56-17 win over VMI, starting middle linebacker Jaquan Yulee suffered a serious neck injury. Who was the next man up? Who else? Brown.
“You never know,” said Brown, who has been MU’s regular strong-side linebacker for the last 10 games. “When that moment comes, you’ve got to be ready to take it and you’ve got to be ready to go do it.
“So, I put myself in a position to where I was ready and the moment came and I did take advantage of it. It’s a testament to hard work. You work hard all the time and you never know when it’s going to pay off. And it pays off when you’re not expecting it.”
It certainly did.
And, yes, Brown has made the most of his opportunity. He ranks seventh on the Herd in tackles with 39 (15 solo). He also has 5.5 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks, tied for No. 2 on the team.
“It all pieces together, definitely,” said Brown. “It’s just a testament to hard work. I feel like no matter what you do in life, if you put your mind to it, put your time in, do everything you can as best as you can, I think eventually stuff starts pulling your way.”
Does Brown sound too good to be true? Wait, there’s more. Willie Wilson — former Huntington East High School star quarterback, former Marshall player and current Huntington High assistant coach — and his wife, Diana, also have an anecdote.
It seems Brown was spending time at the Wilson’s house with their son, Clark, when the family cat ran up a tree and wouldn’t come down. So, who stepped up? Who else? Brown.
“Oh, yeah, I remember that,” said Brown with a laugh. “I was in high school. I brought over my climbing tree stand for deer hunting and climbed up the tree. Actually, I climbed right up to the cat and the cat ran down.”
Brown didn’t catch the cat, but he did catch his dream.
“I never gave up ... even when the outcome wasn’t clear,” he said. “I worked like I was in that role already. I worked like I was a starter even though I wasn’t a starter. So, I was ready for the moment when the moment came.
“And I’m glad it came. It was a lot of work. I wasn’t promised anything. I wasn’t promised an outcome. I wasn’t promised the result that I have. So, it was a lot of work going into it without a predetermined outcome.
“I really didn’t know what was going to come. I just knew I was going to put myself in the best position. So, if the opportunity did come, I was going to seize it.”
Whether Brown is chasing cats or quarterbacks or dreams, he seizes the opportunity. So, on this day of Thanksgiving, we should give thanks to athletes like Tyler Brown.
He’s a young man with old-time virtues.