(Editor’s note: This piece on Elco product Tyler George, now a senior on the Lebanon Valley College football squad, first appeared on Lebanon Sports Buzz in November of 2013. It was reprinted with permission.)
BY JEFF FALK
Given the senior nature of the squad, the overall stability within it and the depth at his position, Tyler George was faced with a huge challenge of simply fitting in on the Lebanon Valley College football squad. Yet he has gone way beyond just fitting in.
George has carved out his own personal niche with the Flying Dutchmen, created ways to contribute and even figured out how to excel in his role within the team framework.
But before that, George had a difficult choice to make. And not only did he stick with that decision, he did what he had to do to make it the right one.
George, a 2011 graduate of Elco High School, is the third receiver on a wide-receiver rich LVC team currently enjoying its best campaign in nearly 50 years. For George, the important thing isn’t that he took the high road to get to Annville, it’s that he arrived there at all.
“It’s been a great decision,” said George. “I’m definitely very happy. I came to a school where I really get along with with everyone. It all seems to be clicking. It feels great to be part of a team focused on the team element more than the individual. It seems like there’s something in the air. Everything seems to be going the right way.
“The biggest reason is the team element,” added George. “There’s no focus on who’s getting the recognition. Everybody roots for everybody else. The offense cheers for the defense and the defense cheers for the offense.”
Yeah, it’s good to be a Dutchman these days. Lebanon Valley has won six straight games and is ranked among the top 25 NCAA Division Three teams in the country for the first time ever in its existence. LVC is 7-1 overall, and 6-1 and in first place in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
“Things are going great,” said George. “We’re 7-1 and we decide our own destiny. We’re two wins away from winning the MAC championship. It’s amazing to be a part of that and the first ranked team in LVC history. It’s something special.
“The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the MAC championship,” George continued. “Whatever way we could do it, we wanted to get it done.”
“His assimilation into our football program and into school, boy he did it right,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos of George. “He earned his spot by working hard and keeping his mouth shut, and he climbed the ladder. He raised the level of play in practice. Young men know when they see someone who’s good, and Tyler’s good. When you’re faced with competition, you can go one of two ways. You can fold or you can raise your level of play.”
George is one of a handful of transfers who have helped Lebanon Valley elevate its level of play.
During his senior season at Elco, George was moved from his natural position of receiver to quarterback to aid his team’s chances of winning. A three-sport star, George was recruited to play football at Division Three Muhlenberg College in Allentown, where things just didn’t work out for him.
“I had a pretty good idea I wanted to be a college football player,” said George. “At the end of the day, it was the sport I was most passionate about. I wanted to go in and play right away and I wanted to get a good education. When I was in high school, I was actually thinking about LVC because my dad played there.
“At Muhlenberg for two season, we had 15 wins, went to a bowl game and I played a lot games as a freshman and a sophomore,” continued George. “I wouldn’t say football was the reason I transferred. I would say it was more the school. I needed something that fitted me better.”
But the key to George’s success may have been his commitment to football during Lebanon Valley College’s spring practice. It was at that point that he caught up, sort to speak.
“No, not playing football was never really an option,” said George. “I was looking pretty much at just LVC. I had been in contact with one of the coaches. I liked the school and I liked the area. I think there was a home-sick element that I wanted to come here.
“At the start, there was a little bit of a struggle coming in and having to re-establish myself,” George added. “To come in here and be behind two all-conference guys (senior Joey Miller and Jake Ziegler), I had my work cut out for me. But they pushed me. I needed to come in during the spring. I had to get the offense down. I had to establish some sort of rapport with the quarterback. I was behind and I needed to take care of that.”
“In the spring, when he joined us, it normally takes a while to pick up the system,” said Monos. “But Tyler picked it up like he’s been running it his whole life. He had a great spring. (Joey) Miller was on the shelf and he became our starting receiver. It was a great transition. We were pleasantly surprised. Coaches’ sons have been around the sport, and he was a quarterback during his senior year in high school, and that helped.
“He’s a great practice player and that translates on to the playing field,” Monos continued. “It gave us instant quality depth at wide receiver. We’ve rotated receivers more than we ever have, and there’s no drop off. We have four outstanding receivers.”
George is currently third on the team in receiving behind Miller and Ziegler. He has 16 catches for 198 yards and a team-leading three touchdown receptions.
“My role is to do whatever they ask me to do,” said George. “I’ll block, run routes, catch passes, be a decoy. Whatever it takes for us to get the win.
“I think we’re doing very well in the passing game,” George added. “We’ve made a lot of strides. It’s tough having a first-year quarterback (Brian Murphy), but having the receiving corps we have, I think we’re beginning to flourish. We’re more than a one- or two-wide-receiver team. We spread the ball around and no one ever knows what we’re going to do.”
“A year ago, we had Leo Kyte and he was more of a drop-back guy,” said Monos. “Murphy is almost a direct opposite. He isn’t comfortable in the pocket. He likes being on the run, and that’s a major part of our offense.
“When you get noticed, that’s great, but the goal is to win a championship,” Monos concluded. “We’re eight games in and we have a chance to win a championship. All the trimmings are a result of what the team does. This team doesn’t care who gets the credit. They just want to win. It doesn’t happen every year like that, but it has this year. As we went through tough football games and faced adversity, we’ve learned. We’ve adopted the mantra, ‘Do what we do.’ And then it’s ‘Who’s next?'”