AP NEWS

Hard work pays off for local athletes

February 5, 2017

It all begins with a dream. And it couldn’t be more appropriate that some of those dreams are being fulfilled as the Super Bowl unfolds in Houston this year.

From the front yard to peewee leagues, through middle school and high school, players across the country are inking deals with colleges for scholarships to play at the next level.

Every year, on the first Wednesday of February, football, soccer and men’s water polo student athletes sign a National Letter of Intent to play for a college in return for a scholarship to help pay for their education. Other sports sign on April 12 this year.

Liberty Head Coach and Athletic Director Chad Taylor announced Tyris Williams signed with Lamar University in Beaumont and Alex Brown inked a deal with Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

Ironically, both teams’ mascot is the Cardinals.

Williams was tapped to play defense primarily.

Coach Smith, their defense coordinator, has known Taylor for 12 years and he explained to the Liberty coach what he wants Tyris to do for them.

“He’s going to be a Cardinal backer,” Taylor said. “He’ll be the guy that does everything. He might be blitzing off the edge on one play, covering somebody man to man the next play, or just playing technique. He fits the bill of somebody who can do both of those things.”

Smith said they also liked him at running back, too.

“They have big plans for him,” the Taylor said.

He visited with the Cardinal coaches and he feels like Williams has a really good chance when he walks on campus that he’ll have a chance to play right off the bat.

Brown will be a running back at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

“It’s probably the premiere community college in the state of Texas,” Taylor said. “They finished undefeated in the season and playoffs and ranked No. 3 in the nation, just missing out on playing the national championship. They’ve won a couple of national championships in their history.”

When Taylor took Brown to Athens for a campus visit, the coaches said they were looking for three running backs and they wanted Brown.

“Alex,” his coach said, “is a guy who needs to hit the reset button. He’s done that and learned what it takes to be a student-athlete.”

Taylor said he likes Cardinals Coach Brad Smiley’s plan for all of his guys coming in.

“His plan is for all of those guys to be graduating in December of 2018 in order to move on and participate in Division I athletics. You have to leave junior college with 60 hours, 48 of which have to be transferable,” he said.

Taylor also believes they have a good support staff, which fits Brown’s needs.

“They will monitor his every move in to make sure he has everything needs to get D1 qualified. I’m really glad he’s going to Trinity Valley,” Taylor said.

This is the first two athletes to receive football scholarships under Taylor’s leadership who has been at Liberty for four years as head coach.

Taylor said the pair of friends deserves all the accolades they received this year.

“They stuck with us during those four years when times were tough,” he said.

This year the two players helped lead the Panthers to the Promised Land going three deep in the playoffs for the first time since 1963.

“Today makes all of those struggles worthwhile,” Taylor said.

“We’re proud of them and for the contributions they made to our program here at Liberty.”

Brown was beaming as he felt like the pressure for signing was over with and now he could concentrate on his future.

“I want to get D1 qualified in a year and a semester so I can continue to fulfill my dream,” Brown said.

He credited Taylor for his guidance and help.

“It was hard work and dedication. We stayed at it. We had our downfalls, but Coach Taylor was the one that picked us back up to go out and excel in everything and stay strong together,” Brown said.

The young man is ready to fulfill his destiny.

“I’m going to that community college to learn to be a student and become a man,” he said.

Williams was excited about his future as well.

“It feels very good that all of the hard work is paying off,” the senior said.

His scholarship, like Brown’s, is a full ride and while there will still be some out of pocket expenses, it doesn’t come close to what it could have been.

“My freshman year they moved me up and I was kind of shaky. I learned fast,” he said, “and look how we finished.”

Neither Williams or Brown have declared a major, but both have high hopes.

“I just thank God and put him first for helping me achieve my goal,” Williams said.

Taylor has hopes that this will be repeated next year, but with more. And this isn’t the end of the relationship he’s built with his two students.

“I look forward to watching them play next year,” he said, “to see how they progress in the next phase of their life.”