By DANA DELGADO
To challenge archrival Burnet and contend in District 8-3A this football season, Liberty Hill High School will field a stout defense, another stable of strong runners and a surging offensive line. But, it is the player behind center, quarterback Tyler Vickers, they are banking on for leadership and playmaking.
Despite not having a down of varsity football experience but being a journeyman in varsity baseball where he garnered Academic All-District Honors, Vickers drew the nod from Head Coach Jerry Vance to be his signal caller last Friday night in the season opener and stadium inaugural contest against Giddings High School.
“I was a little bit nervous, but after the first snap, I was fine,” Vickers said. “It is an amazing feeling to know that my hard work and effort is finally paying off, and it will be an experience I will never forget.”
With the senior quarterback at the helm, the Panthers came within a few plays of pulling out a dramatic comeback win before fumbling away their opportunity in the closing minutes of the game. Giddings held on for a 21-20 victory.
A year ago, Vickers piloted the Junior Varsity team to a 9-1 record, losing a heartbreaker in the season finale against Gatesville, but posting a personal most memorable experience. Hopes of a perfect season hinged on the final play. Down by two points and only seconds remaining, the Panther squad snapped the ball at Gatesville’s 35 yard line.
“I handed off to our tailback Hunter Linsey running to the right who then threw it to me about 15 yards down the field back to the left,” Vickers recounted. “I juked back and forth through would-be tacklers and ran across the field to the right with blockers ahead of me, and with only a couple guys to miss they managed to push me out at the 15 yard line ending our perfect season.”
“He is one of the great success stories,” said John Hall, backfield coach in his third year on the Panther staff. “He was called up to the varsity last year, but elected to stay on the junior varsity football team to become a better leader and player.”
Vickers, who was born and raised in Liberty Hill, says he feels stronger and faster this year as a result of off-season workouts and is prepared to be a strong team leader this fall.
“His leadership is his best asset,” Coach Hall said. “He doesn’t get rattled. He stays calm and poised and manages the game well. He really knows his job and is another coach on the field. As a team we expect to get back into the playoffs and expect Tyler to lead us to reach our goals.”
At only 5’6” and 135 pounds, Vickers fits perfectly into the Panthers’ power offensive scheme by handing off stealth-like to his cadre of punishing runners.
“It helps with the deception,” the senior said.
He didn’t throw a single pass or make a run up field in last Friday’s game, but Vickers added that those plays would be phased in for district play and while it is a long season, he is looking forward to battling Burnet.
The senior said quarterback is the only position he ever wanted to play, but he has also played defensive strong safety. He first played in fifth grade in youth leagues and was inspired by his father, Shawn Vickers, a current member of the Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees who like his son quarterbacked the Panthers in his high school years. Also an inspiration is Tyler’s uncle, Kevin Vickers, an avid sports fan. Tyler went on to say that one of his biggest and most avid supporters not only in football but in life has been his grandfather, Gilbert Vickers.
“He has been to nearly all of my games over the years while I’ve been playing three different sports,” Tyler said. “And this year, he has been to almost every practice this season even through two-a-days.”
Besides football, Tyler Vickers competed on the Junior Varsity basketball squad as the starting point guard and captain last season and played a pivotal role on the varsity baseball team’s playoff run in the spring of 2013. As the backup second baseman, Tyler was elevated to the starting position when the starter got hurt in the second to the last district game.
“We won district,” said Vickers. “I had to step up for the playoffs and we made it three rounds deep before losing to Kennedale.”
The reserved and respectful senior is also a member of the National Junior Honor Society who relishes math but excels in all subjects and retains a high class ranking.
He is considering careers in business or possibly something to do with sports such as coaching. Although undecided about a specific college choice, Tyler is looking at a number of schools in the state including Texas A&M Univesity, Texas State University and Tarleton State University.
Away from school, the senior enjoys dove hunting as well as hunting white-tail deer with his dad, sisters, cousins and Uncle Kevin.
“We hunt on many different leases in Texas,” Tyler said. “I also fish with pretty much my whole family, and we fish for bass and carp and catfish primarily at Lake Georgetown and Lake LBJ.”
Vickers said that hard work and the support of his close family have been keys to his success.
“My Mom and Dad have always told me to work hard and good things will happen,” he said.
His mother is Kaylene Vickers, a former cheerleader at Liberty Hill. Tyler has a twin sister, Makayla, and an older sister Kelsi, a Liberty Hill graduate who competed in volleyball and softball.