There are lots of places that Tycen Anderson could have played college football. But there was only one he could call home.
Tycen, a junior safety with the Toledo Rockets, has lived his entire life in Toledo. He attended Martin Luther King Elementary and Rosary Cathedral School before enrolling at St. John's Jesuit High School. At St. John's, he was a top-flight player on the football team, earning first-team all-state honors as a cornerback. College scholarship offers streamed in from all over the country, including programs like Kentucky and the Air Force Academy. But Tycen never wavered on his choice. He wanted to make a real difference in the community in which he played. And there was no better place in which he could that than in Toledo.
"I had other offers but this is my hometown," said Tycen. "The people I grew up with are super important to me."
Tycen's father, William, advised him to consider all his options during the recruiting process, but quickly learned there was only one option for his son.
"He made an amazing choice," said William. "He had a shoebox full of letters from schools but he chose Toledo. I didn't know he had so much love for Toledo."
Part of being a hometown hero is being recognized and admired by people in your own neighborhood. Tycen takes that responsibility seriously.
"My loyalty to my family, to the people I grew up with and to this city is huge because I know everywhere I go, it's a big responsibility to play for your hometown," said Tycen. "Coach (Jason) Candle said that to me when I was getting recruited and he didn't lie."
Tycen found out how deep that responsibility can be during a team community activity at a local elementary school. Normally, he jumps at the chance to sign his name to the volunteer sheets that are posted in the Larimer Athletic Complex, but this time he couldn't participate due to a class conflict. What Tycen didn't know was that his younger cousins, PJ and Angel, were among the students in the classes that the Rockets visited that day. Tyson got a call from his aunt later that evening. "She was wondering where I was. My little cousin was looking for me," he recalled.
Tycen's profile in the Glass City may become even more pronounced this season. After two very solid seasons at safety, he has the potential to be one of the Rockets' stalwarts on defense. Tycen was selected as one of the team's captains, the only junior to be so honored.
"Tyson is a guy the coaches and players trust and count on," said Candle. "He provides tremendous leadership to our program in the effort he puts forward to be a great teammate, a great student and a tremendous football player."
Tycen is one of a growing number of local players who have chosen to stay home to play for the Rockets. A total of 17 players who attended area high schools are wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold this season (see chart below). But perhaps none are more connected to the Glass City than Tycen.
Tycen has lived in three Toledo neighborhoods, two close to the inner city and one on the south side, where his family currently resides. Though he is very proud of his hometown, Tycen concedes that Toledo, like many cities, is not perfect. There are places that can be challenging for a young person in which to grow up. But Tycen had one critical advantage over some of his peers - a strong and loving family. His parents, William and Sandra, provided unconditional love and support, never hesitating to make personal sacrifices for the sake of Tycen and his sisters, Tyonna and Janya.
"Some of the things I saw growing up were not okay at all," said Tycen. "Some friends that I grew up with went completely down the wrong path, doing the wrong things. So, I'm just super appreciative of my family. I love my family to death. That's my 'why' right there. When we're doing a hard workout, I can always envision my mom, my dad, my grandma, my grandpa and everybody. I can always see them in the back of my head, just smiling and pushing me forward. Growing up, we might have not had everything, but we always had each other. That was always big for me. My family will always be my number-one reason why I do what I do."
Candle knows that kind of family support can make a big impact in a young person's life. It's also an important factor he takes into consideration when determining if a high school recruit will make a positive contribution to the Rocket football program.
"Tycen is a young man with impeccable character who was raised by two really good parents," said Candle. "He had a tremendous baseline before he even got here as a freshman."
In addition to Tycen's parents, the other big influence on his life has been his grandmother, Linda Payne. Her life, which hasn't always been easy, has served as an inspiration to him in many ways.
"My grandma, she's one of the reasons I take my academics so seriously," said Tycen, a finance major who earned Academic All-MAC honors as a sophomore. "I remember growing up, I was maybe in like the fifth grade, and she was trying to get a GED degree because she didn't graduate high school. It was a pride thing for her. I remember sitting at the table and just trying to do my best to help her. That's one of the reasons why I take my academics so seriously, knowing that she doesn't want me to fail."
So while family was the biggest reason Tycen chose to stay close to home for college, his commitment to his community was a close second. He began doing community service activities in high school, and has continued volunteering with the Rockets. He accepts and embraces his status as a role model in the community.
"Growing up, we didn't have too many role models to look up to," said Tycen. "But I always had great youth league coaches that helped guide me in the right direction, as well as my dad. Just seeing how I have some influence in my city and in my inner-city community is huge. We've got a couple guys that I grew up with - Dominic Burkes, Tyson Bauknight, Dalontae Brown-- that are on the same page as I am. The young guys in our community, they really look up to us. It's always good to just give back, to be there, to be a good leader because they don't have too many people to look up to."
So while Tycen has undoubtedly had a positive effect in the Toledo community, the reverse is also true. Growing up and living in Toledo has helped mold him into the person he is today. Which made his college choice so easy three years ago.
"Tycen went where he needed to go to become a better person," said William. "He wouldn't be getting the love anywhere else that he gets here."
- Paul Helgren, associate athletic director for communications
17 players on the Rockets' roster who attended Toledo area high schools
Dalton Anderson, Pemberville - Eastwood
Tycen Anderson, Toledo - St. John's Jesuit
Adam Beale, Holland -Springfield
Mitchell Berg, Maumee - St. John's Jesuit
Nate Childress, Rossford - Rossford
Thomas Cluckey, Oregon - Clay
Erik Davis, Rossford - Rossford
Jahneil Douglas, Toledo - Start
A.J. Gucciardo, Holland - Springfield
Anthony Harrison, Toledo - Springfield
Michael Key,Toledo - Springfield
Bryant Koback, Holland - Springfield
Tyler Long, Toledo - Springfield
Bryce Mitchell, Toledo - Bowsher
Adam Ummel, Oregon - Clay
D.J. Wellons, Elmore, Ohio-Woodmore
Logan Whitson, Holland - Springfield
The number of Rockets from Toledo area high schools has steadily increased since Jason Candle arrived in 2009 as an assistant coach.