Former AHS standout Tyler Ward to play football for St. Thomas in Minnesota
The Tommies are transitioning from DIII to DI this upcoming season
After spending his senior season in California chasing his collegiate football dreams, Tyler Ward was finally able to find his next squad despite all the difficulties of being recruited during the pandemic.
The former Aspen High School standout announced in mid-June he will play quarterback for the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He chose the Tommies over the chance to be a preferred walk-on at some of the larger “Power Five” schools across the country.
“It will be a really cool, unique opportunity,” Ward said Wednesday. “I was dead set at playing at a Power Five. I had a couple of those lined up and whatnot, a couple of opportunities at some of those schools. But at the end of the day it just hit me that it was better for me to go to a school like this.”
St. Thomas, which is located next to the Mississippi River in the heart of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolis, is entering its first academic year competing in NCAA Division I athletics. A Division III university prior, St. Thomas is the first institution to transition directly from DIII to DI, according to a press release from the school, and will only be the second DI program in the state, along with the University of Minnesota, which is located only a few minutes down the road.
The Tommies’ football program will now compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of DI, out of the Pioneer Football League.
“You are not going there to be someone’s water boy as a preferred walk-on somewhere,” Ward said of choosing to play for an FCS program instead of a higher Football Bowl Subdivision school. “I’m super excited about it. It’s been my dream my whole life to play Division I football. I’m finally there. It’s pretty cool.”
Ward spent his first three seasons of high school playing football and lacrosse for AHS before deciding to transfer to Calabasas High School in the hills of Los Angeles for his senior season. Like everywhere else in the country, COVID-19 made a mess of the Coyotes’ football season, which was limited to four played games (4-1 record with a forfeit win) this past spring, but it did include plenty of playing time for Ward.
The most difficult part was finding a roster spot in college. Because of the pandemic, the NCAA froze eligibility for the current college athletes and made transferring from school to school that much easier. With so much unknown, teams couldn’t guarantee a roster spot in most cases this spring and that left many recruits, like Ward, sitting in limbo these past few months.
The general message from college programs, according to Ward, was, “We like you, we just don’t have the room for you right now.”
“I was talking to as many coaches as I could. It was the same thing from every coach,” Ward said. “COVID was bad. There were a lot of things that were a domino effect because of COVID. Not only myself did it hurt, but so many other kids who were in my position of being on the verge of a Division I scholarship. It hurt so many of us.”
Added Ward: “I got so lucky.”
Ward plans to grayshirt early on, meaning he won’t begin taking classes or join the football program until January. This also means the upcoming fall season at St. Thomas won’t count toward his eligibility, with the NCAA rule being athletes have five years to play four seasons, barring any exemptions like a medical redshirt.
Ward plans to study business at St. Thomas, but didn’t know his academic focus beyond that.
“It’s a really nice school,” said Ward, who will spend his next few months back in Aspen before moving to St. Paul this upcoming winter. “I’m going to freeze my butt off, but it will be fun. My blood has kind of thinned out since I’m a Cali boy now.”
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