Najee Tyler couldn’t help but like what he saw.
The former Xaverian quarterback had recently gotten his release from Purdue, a Big Ten school with a rich football history. He got the feeling he would get a similar experience at Youngstown State, a Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) program.
“Everyone there just lives and dies for Youngstown State football,” Tyler said of his experience on his June visit to the Ohio school. “It’s a smaller school, but when it comes to their fan support, it’s just like playing at a big-time program. We were going around town, the players were introducing me to a lot of people. You could just tell it was a real football town. Everything in the town said Youngstown football.”
So will Tyler’s jersey next season.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound redshirt freshman chose the school over Hampton, UMass, Appalachian State and Texas State. Tyler said when he left Purdue, after being asked to make a position change, Xaverian coach Joe DeSiena and others started contacting coaches and word spread that he was available. When Youngstown State came calling, Tyler did some quick research on the internet.
Tyler found out current Ohio State coach Jim Tressel won four national titles there in the ‘90s. The Penguins went 6-5 last season and 4-4 in the Missouri Valley conference. They play their home games at Stambaugh Stadium, which has a capacity of 20,630, one of the largest in the championship subdivision.
Youngstown also has a need at quarterback with senior Brandon Summers graduating. Tyler, a Fresh Meadows native, will compete for the starting job with junior Marc Kanetsky and redshirt freshman Kurt Hess. The chance to play right away and not sit a year kept him from pursuing opportunities at Division I-A programs Virginia, Temple, UTEP, Florida International and Pittsburgh.
“I’m glad that I am going somewhere where I can compete,” Tyler said. …”I just can’t wait for camp to start.”
Getting him on the field was something Purdue was going to do, but just not at quarterback. The Boilermakers, who also have sophomore quarterback Robert Marve, who started 11 games at the University of Miami in 2008, wanted Tyler to play halfback or tight end. Tyler threw for 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Xaverian.
“With them having a kid with experience and me coming in, I lack experience as far as game time,” he said “They were just looking for a better fit for their team. They thought I could help them out at another position. When it came to me, I felt like quarterback is what I want to play.”
Tyler said he holds no ill will toward the Purdue coaching staff and thanked them for the opportunity to experience what it is like to be part of a big-time program. Moving forward he hopes to enjoy a similar football-centric atmosphere, just on a smaller scale.
“Everywhere we went you just saw Youngstown football,” he said. “It was a football town, something I was used to at Purdue. It just felt like a right fit. They made me feel like I was family there.”