New W.Va. State quarterback has catching up to do
INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- West Virginia State University quarterback Tyler Seals is in a tough spot, having only one year to make his mark on the world of college football.
It's a responsibility he doesn't take lightly.
Seals and the Yellow Jackets begin a new era this weekend when they open the 2013 season with a visit to Lock Haven, Pa., to face the Bald Eagles at Hubert Jack Stadium in a 1 p.m. contest on Saturday.
It's a new spot for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Seals as well as first-year head coach Jon Anderson and a program that has fallen on hard times, winning six games since 2007.
As for the quarterback from Nebraska, the third start of his college career will come Saturday.
"There is pressure, but it comes with the job," Seals said. "Being my last season, I want to take advantage of every week and be prepared every week. I'm not going to put pressure on myself."
Seals acknowledges and has an understanding of pressure through his father Erik, who is in Afghanistan serving as an air traffic controller for the Air Force. His father has been overseas for most of his son's college career.
"Being a military kid, I had to grow up faster than a lot of other kids," said Seals, whose younger brother is a freshman at Nebraska, but not playing football. "Since I was really little, I felt the need to take control of situations and had to gain leadership qualities at a young age because dad's out of the house and you have to take control of things.
"Also, he's from Kentucky, a southern guy, so he doesn't accept anything other than humility. The spotlight isn't on me, it's on the team."
Seals wasn't the most sought-after player at Bellevue West High School (Neb.) during the 2007 football season. That honor went to his favorite receiver, Greg Hardin, who signed with the University of North Dakota and became a Sports Network All-America third team selection as a junior in 2012.
Still, he was recruited by multiple Division II programs that included the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) - where Anderson served as defensive coordinator - and Northwest Missouri State. The choice was easy at the time, because of the Bearcats' rich football history. By the time Seals arrived, Northwest Missouri was on a four-year NCAA Division II playoff streak and had played in three consecutive national championship games.
By 2009, when the Bearcats became the first Division II team to play in five consecutive title games, Seals was in the infancy of his time there. When his junior season concluded, Seals was serving as backup to QB Trevor Adams for the second straight year and had started only two games - both victories - in three seasons.
Adams is back, which left Seals as a backup for his final college season.
There was a degree of frustration, but the relationship with his team was nothing but positive, he keeps in touch with Adams and is looking forward to his experience with the Mountain East Conference.
He's in a different situation at State, where success has been limited, the crowds are roughly 5,000 fans smaller and his offensive line features two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.
"These guys want to do good things for us," Seals said. "It's good to see these guys working hard. They really want a winning culture here, they want to see how it feels to get a ring."
State's starting running back is returnee LeFloyd Phillips, who had 118 yards on 34 carries last season. Seals' top targets are Temple Hills, Md., resident and freshman Julius Bradley and junior Shanin Benifield, who had 24 receptions for 344 yards and two touchdowns for State last season.
Spending all summer on campus has helped Seals gain a relationship with his receivers.
"I would say typically it takes a little while (to gain a rapport), but I was fortunate to start working with these guys this summer," he said. "We were able to get the kinks out of the way."
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STATE'S FIRST opponent, Lock Haven, ended a 52-game losing streak in the season finale last year. A 17-14 home victory against Cheyney on Nov. 10, 2012, was the Bald Eagles' first win since the same date in 2007 in a 17-14 overtime verdict against Clarion.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.