As is the case with most quarterbacks who play the game at a high level, Tyler Tettleton doesn’t struggle to answer questions.
Split-second, real-time decision making — honed by trying to beat blitzes on the gridiron — has prepared Ohio University’s fifth-year quarterback to always have an answer ready.
Want Tettleton to break down the Bobcats’ depth chart? Offense and defense? Done.
Need him to critique the draft approach and outlook for his favorite NBA team (Oklahoma City Thunder)? Easy.
Ask him to reflect on what it’s like to play with long-time friend Beau Blankenship, or what it’s like to be at the forefront for an Ohio program that has morphed into a consistent Mid-American Conference contender, and he’ll gladly give you his perspective.
But ask the 22-year old about himself and he closes ranks quicker than a defensive front facing a fourth-and-one.
“Uh, I don’t know. I’m just a normal guy,” Tettleton said, when pressed on sharing more about himself.
It’s an odd mix. On one hand Tettleton is the most visible player on the Bobcats’ roster. About to begin his third season as Ohio’s starting quarterback, Tettleton is now a two-time team captain and has assaulted the Ohio record book unlike any QB in the program’s history.
The 6-foot, 200-pounder holds a whopping 23 different records as a Bobcat, and never has the program enjoyed such a profiecient passer. Tettleton is already the all-time program leader in passing yards (6,274), completions (504) and touchdown passes (46). He’s the only QB in Ohio history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a single season (2011) and the only one to throw for more than 2,500 yards in back-to-back years.
Tettleton has been a driving force in back-to-back bowl game wins for the Bobcats — the only bowl wins in the program’s history. A 50-foot banner depicting Tettleton hangs on the outside of Peden Stadium. His face is plastered on billboards in and around Athens holding the 2012 Independence Bowl trophy.
Tettleton’s name popped up on four different awards lists in 2012, and last week he was named to the watch lists for both the 2013 Walter Camp (college player of the year) and 2013 Davey O’Brien (best quarterback) awards.
Given that kind of profile, Tettleton might want to brush up on his self-promotion skills. But other than professing the value of his religious faith in his life, he’s not all that comfortable talking about himself.
On the field, Tettleton isn’t afraid to scramble for a first down or to extend a roll out. He’s not shy to audible to a go-for-broke throw down the field on third-and-short. He’s aggressive.
But doing an interview? It’s close-to-the-vest time.
“I think I’m extremely guarded and pretty laid back. In public, I’m definitely a shy guy,” Tettleton said.
Drawing unnecessary attention to himself isn’t in Tettleton’s playbook. It was a lesson learned via his parents, including his father and former Major League All-Star Mickey Tettleton.
“Just my personality, I think I get that from both my parents,” he explained.
“Learning what to do and what not to do, the demeanor and the way you kind of represent yourself,” Tettleton continued. “It kind of taught me to not just be guarded but always make sure I’m doing the right thing and acting in a way that I guess your coaches and friends would want to see you.”
Tettleton’s on-field ability make him an ideal quarterback for Ohio’s up-tempo offensive system. A daring and quick runner, Tettleton can be an effective threat in the Bobcats’ option looks. His accurate arm, knowledge of the system and decision making have allowed him to flourish with Ohio’s passing attack as well.
Ohio coach Frank Solich has credited Tettleton’s even-keeled temperament as well. Whether its a touchdown or an interception, he doesn’t let the previous play affect the next one. Add in Tettleton’s work ethic and commitment, and Solich said there’s nothing more the Bobcats could ask for.
“He’s the total package,” Solich said. “He can make all the throws, he’s accurate, he’s a great athlete. He’s a competitor, a winner, a leader.”
It’s the kind of praise that might bring a blush if recited in Tettleton’s presence — except for one part. Tettleton freely admits his competitive streak runs wide and deep. That need to win, and to not be at the center of attention, is a big reason why the coach and QB have connected.
“We’re both really competitive. That’s the biggest thing with me and him. We both want to win and we both know what we want,” Tettleton said. “We’ve even talked about it. I’d tell him it’s not me getting mad or anything, it’s just I’m so competitive that I want everything to go right.”
Friends and roommates can attest to Tettleton’s competitive nature. Whether its on the golf course or a video game — or even on a golf course IN a video game — Tettleton wants to win.
He may exude a cool, calm demeanor, but when score is being kept Tettleton has a need to be the one with the best.
“Just being around him so long, you can see it in different stuff,” said Blankenship, who was also Tettleton’s high school teammate. “He’s always so cool out there on the field, under control. But he can get pretty fired up.”
Donte Foster, Ohio’s senior wide receiver, is also an Oklahoma native like Tettleton and Blankenship. He also lives with the duo. A lover of video games himself, Foster said no one goes harder in the digital arena.
“The way he is, you’d think he’d be laid back,” Foster said. “But if you get him on XBox Call of Duty, that may be the most screaming you ever hear from a quarterback. He might take Call of Duty more serious than football...well not really, but he gets that intense that you might think it.”
That competitive nature, his faith, and an appreciation for silly humor (think pet videos and Will Ferrell), are among the few personal aspects Tettleton is willing to open up about — those and what he wants out of his senior season.
And yes, while the thought of playing professionally is a topic that has gained more traction with each passing year, it’s the Bobcats’ prospects that dominate Tettleton’s focus this fall. After wrapping up his degree requirements (Sports Management), a MAC championship is the one thing he and the program are still seeking.
“That’s been kind of the ultimate goal, especially for me. Before I graduate, I wanted to win the MAC Championship,” he said. “We have one more shot.”
Athens isn’t a major metropolitan area, it’s not a football crazy province. For the most part, Tettleton is able to live his life anonymously. And he prefers it that way.
If the Bobcats break through and win a conference championship for the first time since 1968, Tettleton will be a big reason why. And he’ll be front and center when it comes to discussing Ohio’s success.
If that success means a MAC title, he’ll put up with the attention.
“It’s great no matter who it is. I think it’s great for the university to advertise that stuff to show what’s going on here,” he said. “Around this area everybody knows what going on with us now, I think it’s great to let the fans see that.
“But I’m not all about that stuff. It’s cool and all,” Tettleton continued. “It’s about wins and losses. It’s comes back to the success we have as a team. If we can have the season we know we’re capable of having, and get to Detroit and win the MAC Championship then I’ll be more than satisfied.”