Dropping one’s child off at college evokes a wide array of emotions for seemingly any parent, something that Huntsville assistant football coach Tyrone Carter experienced earlier this week.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time," he said. “I've prepared him for this opportunity in his life, so I'm hoping he can take everything we've done over the years and thrive — and grow into the man I know he can be.”
Tyrique Carter — an all-state honorable mention for the Hornets last season — arrived at Lamar on Sunday to begin his college football journey, as the Cardinals started the process of bringing players on campus for summer workouts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an unusual feel to the unofficial start of the preseason. However, that hasn’t tapered the excitement of Tyrique or his new head coach.
“I kind of had chills running through my body,” Tyrique said. “The first week we have to quarantine, so we don't have workouts, But we've moved in, and it's just exciting to see that I'm going to be playing at the Division I level. It's a blessing from God.”
“Just being able to see the guys — the returners and the newcomers — was incredible,” first-year Lamar head coach Blane Morgan said. “That moment really filled us all with some energy.”
For Tyrique and Tyrone, the 2020 season will undoubtedly have a different feel to it.
Even before Tyrique’s high school career — after starting out at Groesbeck, he arrived at Huntsville in 2018 and helped the Hornets go 22-5 with five playoff wins over the past two years — his father was always an integral part of his life, both on and off the field.
Tyrone's lack of a father figure growing up drove him to be active in his children's lives. And with Tyrique, football allowed the father-son duo to deepen their special bond.
“It was phenomenal, and it gave us the chance to grow together,” Tyrone said of the opportunity to coach Tyrique. “Me not having a father figure myself, I really tried to be an example for him — and everything we did with football helped us. I think it helped him understand how to be a man, and I know all these things we did related to sports is going to help him grow into a good father, husband and community member.”
“He was just one of my biggest fans, and always supported me no matter what,” added Tyrique. “It was just awesome having my dad there. A lot of people don't have their dad there, so it was just a big blessing for me.”
Tyrone’s coaching career led the Carters to move several times throughout Tyrique’s childhood, making stops in Fort Worth, Hutto and Groesbeck before coming to Huntsville. Tyrique became accustomed to transition as a result, something he believes will help him as he starts college.
“I'm pretty used to it,” he said. “People will be like, 'I've been here my whole life, for 18 years,' but it's normal for me now at this point. Just having a dad as a coach, I've been going through transition all the time. So I'm used to meeting new people and coaches in new environments.”
Tyrique was initially leaning toward signing with Texas State, but a new coaching regime at Lamar brought the Cardinals to the forefront of his recruiting options.
In particular, Tyrique had built a strong connection with new Lamar co-offensive coordinator Ron Antoine, who came over from Texas State after Blane Morgan was hired as head coach following the 2019 season. This, combined with the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time and the Cardinals’ plans to utilize his versatility at both running back and receiver, ultimately secured his commitment.
“Coach Antoine was at Texas State when he was recruiting me, and he had moved to Beaumont. So when he hit me up and was like, 'Hey, I'm at Lamar,' we already had a really good relationship,” Tyrique said. “I was trying to go to Texas State at the time because he was a really good coach. Then I met Coach Morgan and they treated me like family automatically, so I just really felt a connection with them.
“They do a spread offense, and the position I play, like a slot receiver, he'll put them at running back, outside, inside. It's just exciting to see that I can still get to do all the athlete-type stuff that I did at Huntsville.”
As a parent, the ‘family-oriented’ nature of the coaching staff confirmed to Tyrone that Lamar was a good fit for his son.
“The coaches are family-oriented, so they're going to be able to be a dad for when he's away from his dad,” he said. “We've been working to raise him into a man ... and I think the coaching staff is going to do a phenomenal job, kind of picking up as we’re leaning off a little bit to help him grow.”
Although Tyrique was only at Huntsville for two years, him and his dad have no shortage of memories together as Hornets.
There was the area-round beatdown of Manvel at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, during the 2018 Class 5A, Division II playoffs. There was also a pair of postseason victories over Marshall — one an instant classic at The Star in Frisco, the other a blowout road win last November.
But for this father and son, the moment that stands out perhaps the most didn’t happen on a Friday night in the fall.
“One of my favorite memories of coaching Tyrique was during the spring game his junior year,” Tyrone recalled. “I was calling the plays and he was the quarterback, and we were driving down to go win the game. I called a timeout and he came over to the sideline to talk about what we were going to do ... then when he ran back out there, I called his name. He just looked back and gave me a look like, 'Dad, I got it.' And then he went and threw a touchdown for our team to win.
“That was one of those cool dad moments that I thought would happen on a Friday night, but ended up happening in the spring game — and we still talk about it to this day. I thought the fact that he turned around and was just like, 'Dad, I've got it. We've been doing this for a long time,' was pretty cool.”
Looking back on this moment brings a smile to the face of Tyrique, who hopes to someday share a similar experience with his own kid.
“That was pretty special,” Tyrique said. “It was funny, because he did the exact same thing to me when I was in like second grade. He kept calling my name from the stands, and I was just like, 'Dad,' and kind of put my hands down toward him, so it was like the same exact moment. He was like, 'Ty, Ty,' and I was like, 'Dad, just chill a little bit.' Then he saw me go out there, execute and make the big play.
“That's something a dad would want. When I grow up as a father, I would want my kid to have that confidence and trust himself, knowing that I put him in a good position. ... It’s just a great memory.”