Tyler Pendleton talks about past, present and future
Dayton, TN — Tyler Pendleton finished his second year on the football field at the University of Cumberlands and took time to reflect back on his time in Rhea County and his time at University of Cumberlands during his time back home between semesters. Tyler took time to reflect back on his football career, beginning at Spring City with youth football until his graduation from Rhea County High School in 2016 and then talked about his time at University of Cumberlands and beyond. Tyler grew up in Spring City and attended Spring City Elementary and Spring City Middle School. While attending Spring City Elementary, Tyler began his football with Spring City Red Dogs in first grade. Tyler played on the line during most of his time with Red Dogs as he usually was over weight limit for being able to tote the ball. He played Red Dogs until 5th grade and then played baseball and basketball. In middle school, Tyler played for Coach Davis in the Winged T. Throughout his middle school and high school career, Tyler played linebacker with some time at fullback in 8th grade at SCMS. Tyler had a stellar career at Rhea County High School before his graduation in 2016. Tyler Pendleton was selected All-Region as Linebacker of the Year. Pendleton, also selected as Rhea County’s All-Region Academic Representative. Pendleton’s Rhea County football career spanned four years. In all, he was credited with 390 tackles, 253 solo tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, and two interceptions. Pendleton and fellow seniors leave with a 7-3 playoff record during their tenure. At Cumberlands, Tyler Pendleton was named the MSC Appalachian Division Player of the Week in October of 2017. Tyler recorded a season and career-high 17 tackles for the Patriots in the loss to the University of Pikeville. He tallied five solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles while also recording two tackles for a loss in the game. As a freshman in 2016, Tyler played in 8 games, and started in 2 games. At the University of Cumberlands, Tyler is majoring in Biology and he has goal of going into the Medical field and becoming a doctor. I sat down and talked with Tyler about his past, present and future.
On playing linebacker, what is the mentality?
Tyler said, “I think linebacker is the hardest position to play beside maybe quarterback. You have to be pretty versatile. You have to be big enough to fight off the offensive lineman and fast enough to get to the receivers and run down the backs. You can never shy away from contact. You always have to play downhill. The first couple of plays of the game, you want to get a good hit in. Says I am here and don’t forget it. At every level the coaches they really harp on that. All the time they are saying, “knock down the crossing routes. Don’t let them run across the middle.” A lot of times those little dumps across the middle will really hurt in the Mid South Conference.”
What are the things you miss about football during your high school days?
‘I miss the away games, joking on the bus, time in the locker room, time before practice, spending the entire summer together. All the cliche things you hear everybody say and talk about.”
Were there any special game or games in high school that stand out in your memory? “
The games kinda morph together over time. But the Cookeville game and the Knox West game stand out in my junior year. The Cookeville game was a tough game with two really good teams going at it. You always remember Jake and the big play he made. I never forget hugging coach Mitchell at the end. The Knox West game was a heart breaker. I still feel like we were the best team in the State that year in 5A. We should have won the state. Going into high school I had set two goals for my self. I would liked to be an All-State selection and win state championship. When I got to Cumberlands, there was an offensive lineman from Knox West and of course he would have to show off his ring and show me how nice it was.”
What was your initial impression when you meet coach Pemberton?
“We were sitting in the library in the old high school. I didn’t know what was going on. I was following the upper classmen. I see this man sitting there with these rings on his fingers and walking with a swagger. The thing that stuck out the most was he told us he was not hear to build a program but to win now. I will never forget the tone in his voice when he said he wanted to win now. I could just tell he was different and had a different mentality about him. I clicked with him right away. I didn’t speak to him because I was too shy. I could tell he was the real deal and that he was going to be something different to play under and he was.”
Looking back, what is it about coach Pemberton that you fondly remember the most?
“Everyday at every level you come out and say “I got to go to football practice.” Coach Pemberton stands in the middle of the field and looks around. It is like he knows if you are not feeling it that day and he will come over and tear into you. He will make sure that that day you are not feeling it, that you give 110% and you will work harder that day than the day you are feeling it. The way he carries himself. You can tell that he has been there, he has put in the work and he knows what it takes. He really cares about you but at the same time he will really get after you. At the end of the day, he will tell you he loves you and smack you on top of the helmet. He will make sure that you do your job and are held accountable. When we would watch film, it was a big session for him to call people out and at the same time, he would tell people that they did a good job. We were still developing and it was a way of handling our mistakes as players and even outside the football field we were held accountable. We were held accountable because we represented him. For me, he really taught me a lot about what it means to be a man. Doing things like keeping your word, always doing right, even is someone wasn’t watching. He made me feel like “I play linebacker at Rhea County.” Coach Harmon had began to start the culture change earlier. He(Pemberton) gave us a swagger. He completely changed the culture. Walking the hallways, people were excited.”
Talk about your academics in high school and college.
“Academics always came before football. I never made a B until I got to college. I have to credit that to my parents. They always stressed it when we were little. I can remember my dad sitting at kitchen table when I was in the third grade going over the multiplication tables and teaching me trig. My dad always helped me with math and science and my mom always proof read my papers. In high school I kind of knew what it was going to take and the knew kind of work I was going to put in. I never really asked my parents for help after that, once I figured it out on my own and what it was going to take and they were not going to accept any less. I can’t thank them enough for that.” “I never considered my self an extremely intelligent person. I have always studied so much and have always put myself in position to score really well on tests. If I knew an assignment was coming up I have always had it done two or three days before. My mentality helped me in college but it wasn’t perfect when I got to college. I failed my first biology test. That was a wake-up call. I took that same mentality and studied the same amount as high school. Even after I took the test, I thought I had done well. I got it back and made like a 67. I made my first B in college. I was not as upset as I though I was going to be. It was a pretty tough class. Not the end of the world. Sun comes up the next morning. In college it takes more of everything.”
Talk about your future in Medical field.
“My major is Biology. After graduation, I would like to go to medical school. As far as where, I have not made that decision. I have always loved science. When I started working out, I got interested in the body and how the body works. I have though about exercise and sports science and things like that. Something about being a doctor and being able to help others and being that accomplished. Some people are successful in college, but I have always wanted to take it to the next level and see what I can do and what my potential is.”
What influenced you to choose University of Cumberlands?
“It was relatively close to home and I really liked the coaches. They did really good job of recruiting me and checking in on me. Expense was a factor and there was really nice scholarship there. As I go down the list of things of things I was looking for in college things started adding up. I was leaning between Cumberlands and East Tennessee State. I liked ETSU because of the med school.”
What was the transition like to college football? “
“It was humbling coming to college football. At the high school level there were three or four guys that were as big and as strong and fast as you. When you get to college, you are kind of back down here. Everybody is as big, as fast and as strong as you.”
“Training camp in my freshman year was the most physically demanding thing I have done in my life. We were on the field practicing at 6 am in full pads. We had meetings and lunch and meeting and practice again. That was every day for the entire month of August. For the first week and a half, I was going “I made the wrong decision, college football is not for me, I don’t have what it takes.” I was always call my mom and dad and say “I hate it, I can’t do it, and its too hard. They were always encouraging me to stick with it. I had Gavin and Jacob there. I roomed with both of them and we had each other to lean on. I am really glad I stuck it out. They always say the first one is the worst and the hardest.”
Was there a moment at University of the Cumberlands when you felt like you could really play at that level?
“A little while into camp, we set up an Oklahoma drill and I got down. Coach Rhymer walked over to me and said, “I want you to show me you can play at this level.” I completely zoned in and went into different … I don’t know to to explain it. I ended up coming down and hitting a guy that was a lot bigger than me and I got extension on him and shed the block and made the tackle. Everybody kinda swarmed me and were patting me and hyping me up. Coach Rhymer came over there and gave me a high five. I think that was the turning point for me and I felt like I could play with these guys.”
Do you have any goals going into your junior year?
“I want to do things really well and do my job so well that if enhances someone else on the field and they can do their job really well and it ends up we have a really good defensive game as team. Every game and every week as we are going through watching film and going over what to do to be successful and win the game. I set goals to do my job to best of my ability and help everyone around me.and they can lean on me and ask me questions on the field. As far as stats, I have never been too concerned with stats. I have never been that guy that went into a game and have at least 15 tackles. That is never something I have set out to do. Those kind of things come when you do all the little things right.”
How would you describe your best attribute as a football player?
“I would say, consistency. I am not a guy that will make a play that will be on ESPN. If I in a position to make a tackle or have opportunity take someone’s head off and possibly miss the tackle, ten times out of ten I will going to make the sure tackle. Unless the big play has to be made.”
What is your advice to a young person just getting into sports to make them successful? “
I think work ethic is the biggest thing that sets people apart from others. You can’t go to practice and do things in practice and expect to be better than other people around you. Cause they are putting in the same work as you are during practice. I think you set yourself apart when you work before and after practice. I would tell young people, you get out what you put in. You can never ever ever let someone outwork you.”