Former Payson High School football and baseball player Tyler Williams stopped by the Payson Roundup last week for a short visit.
Tyler has just wrapped up Marine boot camp and is primed and ready to report to his next assignment, which he hopes will be in the air wing of the corps.
Tyler says his goal is to learn skills that he can use once his enlistment in the Marines is over.
During boot camp, Tyler says he did well in the marksmanship training, which you would expect from a kid who grew up hunting and sharpshooting in the woods near Pine. But when drill instructors learned he was bound for a branch other than a ground-pounding rifleman, they expressed their disappointment.
He also says basic training boot camp was as tough as he was told, but now that it has ended, he has a tremendous feeling of self accomplishment.
Tyler touts the USMC recruitment slogan of “Marines are made not born. Twelve weeks of the toughest training in the world transforms civilians into members of the United States’ most noble brotherhood,” as on target and true.
Tyler graduated from Payson High School in 2005, but didn’t decide to join the Marines until last winter.
As a senior at PHS, he batted .382 playing both catcher and infielder for the Horn baseball team.
But as good as Tyler was in baseball, most who know him believe his first love was football.
If there was a defining moment in his gridiron career at PHS, it occurred his senior season in a gut-wrenching 14-12 loss to Flagstaff Sinagua.
For the highly emotional game, the Horns were without the services of starting tailback Luke Apfel, who was sidelined with a knee injury. PHS also did not have quarterback Donnie Wilbanks due to an injury.
Also, Tyler and his teammates were mourning the sudden loss of senior running back James Gibson’s mother who had died earlier in the week at 46 years of age.
Needless to say, times were tough on Longhorn field.
I watched as Tyler almost single handedly rallied his teammates in what might have been the most distressing evening in the history of the PHS football program.
Filling in admirably for Apfel at tailback, Tyler rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries.
Defensively, he was a demon bringing down Sinagua ball carriers in the backfield and harassing the Mustang quarterback on pass attempts.
Although Tyler is not vocal by nature, he was a fireball of enthusiasm constantly encouraging his teammates.
It would have been easy for those seniors to roll over and give in. But under the leadership of Tyler, they fought back as determined as any PHS football team ever has.
At the conclusion of the game — one in which Payson misfired on a last gasp two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score — Williams and his senior teammates gathered at the 50-yard line to remove their football cleats and leave them on the field as a sign their prep careers had ended.
At the time, Tyler was only 17 years old, but his character and selfless behavior were a glimpse of the type of proud Marine he has become.