It doesn’t take long to realize the kind of impression Jack Tyler leaves on people.
Even four years after the linebacker graduated from Oakton High School, Tyler’s old defensive coordinator, Jason Rowley, had no hesitation about taking some time to praise his old player. After all this time, Rowley would still do “anything for Jack.”
Tyler hasn’t taken the path most All-ACC linebackers follow.
He capped his high school career averaging 10 tackles per game and was named state defensive player of the year — but that wasn’t enough to get a Division I scholarship offer.
In the weight room, Tyler’s numbers didn’t hold him back (he posted a 315 pound bench press and 400 pound squat), but most programs cited his lack of size as a reason he wasn’t cut out for college football.
Coming out of high school, Tyler stood at six feet tall and weighed 215 pounds, but the inside linebackers who get Division I offers are typically a few inches taller and a couple pounds heavier.
Rowley disagreed with the scouts’ philosophy.
“I was surprised he didn’t get an offer. In 2008, he was the best defensive player in our region,” Rowley said. “He was as good as anybody. I think his height definitely stood in his way.”
Tyler himself admitted that leaving high school without a D-I scholarship offer was unexpected.
“It was frustrating more because of the reasoning behind it,” Tyler said. “No one ever said I couldn’t play football well enough. It was always that I was too slow, too un-athletic, too small, too something.
“I always joked that I was the highest-recruited walk-on in the country, because everyone wanted me to walk on, but no one wanted to pull the trigger to go ahead and give me a scholarship.”
Other than an apathetic offer from Buffalo after their targeted recruit didn’t sign with them, Tyler had to pick between playing his way onto a squad or walking on somewhere.
Jack, who grew up a Virginia Tech fan, opted to chase his childhood dream — bittersweet as it was.
“I knew that I wanted to play for Coach Foster. I always saw myself going to Virginia Tech,” Tyler said. “But I think most of the time I was just kind of hoping I’d get a scholarship somewhere, and when it never happened I was just kind of like, ‘Well, I’ll go to the best of the best, and that’s Virginia Tech.’”
The Hokies wanted Jack, but with a few strings attached.
They wouldn’t offer him a scholarship off the bat, so he was a “preferred walk-on,” meaning that if he performed well enough through his first year and continued to improve, they’d give him a scholarship eventually.
So by going to Tech, Tyler was betting on himself with quite a bit on the line.
Ahead of him on the depth chart were guys like Cody Grimm and Bruce Taylor.
Taylor was a coveted four-star recruit, while Grimm was also an Oakton High School alumni who had gone from playing on the scout team to starting (Grimm went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Rowley coached both Tyler and Grimm, and said he saw a lot of similarities between the two. When Tyler was a wide-eyed true freshman, Grimm showed him the ropes of college football.
Grimm said Tyler’s work ethic was on display from day one.
“I remember Jack having a thirst to learn and (he) was eager to do whatever to help the team,” Grimm said. “He would help out with the scout teams, but prepare as if he was going to start.”
Grimm was cemented as the starter upon Jack’s arrival, and since his heir-apparent was top-recruit Taylor, it only made sense that Tyler was discouraged.
He started to think he’d never make the jump from the practice field to Worsham Field.