As Tough As Nails

Oct. 15, 2005

By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com

When you bring up the name Tyler Nugent it seems that everyone has the same words to describe him. Tough, hard working, determined and competitive. And if you talk to Nugent, his coaches or his friends you quickly understand why those words fit him so well.

"Tyler is probably the most competitive guy on our team," said head coach Tom Gilmore. "He takes a lot of pride in what he does on the field and is very hard on himself. He is always trying for perfection, so if the other team completes a pass even though we set up the defense to give up a short pass, he is always upset. That competitiveness has really helped him. He goes out and plays hard every single snap and he is not afraid of a challenge."

The 5-foot-8, 168-pound senior defensive back faces a challenge on the field mostly every week as he lines up against taller wide receivers. But that is where his competitiveness and work ethic kicks in. He has never let his size stop him from shutting down a receiver. "It is a bit of a disadvantage," said Nugent. "You have to approach the game differently and with more confidence, so even if the receiver is 6-foot-4, you believe you will still make the play. I have to go about my method a little differently. Instead of going up for a jump ball with a guy six inches taller, I have to time my jump so when he is coming down I am going up so I can knock the ball out."

During his four years at Holy Cross, Nugent has always focused on getting better and being mentally and physically ready to play college football. "Ever since I've been here the focus has been on working hard, which means studying a lot of film and working hard in the weight room to get stronger and faster."

So far that training has paid off for Nugent and the squad as Gilmore credits him for helping the team in getting off too a good start. "Tyler has had an outstanding year so far and he is a major reason for the difference between this year and last year," said Gilmore. "He is never intimidated and goes out and has a lot of confidence that he can beat any one on the field. He believes he can line up against anyone and shut them down. That is exactly what he has done this year and the very few passes that have been completed on his side have all been close and he is always right there with the receivers. We have a lot of confidence in him, like he has in himself."

So after knowing a little about what kind of person Nugent is, it should not surprise anyone that he has been playing with a fractured wrist and does not let it bother him. "I have a cast on during the week, but I take it off for games and put on a little brace," said Nugent. "When the adrenaline gets going, I don't focus on my wrist. It's not that big of a deal."

That toughness and unselfish attitude of wanting to do what ever it takes to help his team win games has always been with Nugent dating back to his days growing up in White Plains, N.Y., with his older brother Brendan, and his two younger brothers Griffin and Connor. "I grew up with three brothers and we were constantly competing against each other," said Nugent. "We used to go out and play football in the back yard. Just playing with my brothers gave me a sense of toughness."

His close family and bonding with his brothers over football fueled his love for the game. "I have a pretty tight family," said Nugent. "To me and my three brothers football has always been our favorite sport. When we played in the back yard, we would all dream about playing in the National Football League. So playing college football was a major goal, and I am glad I have the opportunity to do so."

His older brother Brendan, who is a graduate assistant for the football team at the University of Iowa, has particularly been a positive influence in his life. "I always looked up to him since I was a little kid," said Nugent. "Brendan is an unbelievable role model. His work ethic and desire to do his best in every aspect of his life is what has made me look up to him, ever since we were little. His senior year of high school was great too, because he was captain of the varsity football team and I and my brother Griffin actually got to play with him, all starting together on defense. Brendan is a natural leader, and always will be."

Nugent was impressed right away when he visited Holy Cross for the first time. "I came up to Holy Cross with my father and as soon as I got here I fell in love with it," said Nugent. "I loved the stadium and the academic reputation. I also wanted to be part of the football tradition and excellence that they have had here for years."

A friend of Nugent's was going through the exact same process. He also made the same decision. Holy Cross senior basketball player Kevin Hyland has known Nugent since the first grade all the way through high school at Archbishop Stepinac, and now at Holy Cross. "Once I signed early on senior year, I started recruiting Tyler to come to Holy Cross," said Hyland. "I knew he was considering here and only a couple other schools, so I did what I could to push him towards Holy Cross."

Their friendship was a big advantage in easing the transition from high school to college and in making new friends. "We chose not to room together and ended up living in different dorms," said Hyland. "As a result, we each met a lot more people than we would've had we been at school on our own. So, we both immediately had a lot of friends, which made life pretty good."

Hyland has seen first hand how tough and determined Nugent can be as they played on the same basketball team for eight years from fifth grade through senior year. "In those eight years, I don't think there was ever a moment when I, any of our coaches or any of our teammates ever questioned the fact that Tyler was by far the hardest worker on the team," said Hyland. "For some reason, I remember our coach from seventh and eighth grade say, `Tyler would run through a wall if I told him to.' I think that sums it up pretty well. It's funny thinking back about it now. Due to the all-out style with which he played, it seems like Tyler was always getting injured. But at the same time, I can't remember him sitting out of even a practice for anything less than a broken bone."

Ironically, the two of them and senior quarterback John O'Neil, who is also from White Plains, played on the same grammar school basketball team together. In eighth grade their team went 32-4 and lost in the championship game, so despite a very successful season, the competitive spirit was so strong that they did not treat the season as a success. "The level of competitiveness we had as a team was so high that I don't even like to talk about that season to this day," said Hyland. "I think we all felt and especially Tyler, that because we didn't win the championship, the season was a failure."

Even though football has always been Nugent's first love, Hyland saw that it didn't matter the sport or the magnitude of the game, Nugent was always going to give his maximum effort to help the team win. "In high school, it was pretty clear that Tyler was first and foremost a football player," said Hyland. "Basketball was highly secondary. Despite this, whether we were playing away at our archrivals Iona Prep (O'Neil played center for them) or we were having a preseason scrimmage, the intensity with which Tyler played at all times displayed his incredible desire to win."

A political science major Nugent has always wanted his senior year to be a positive and as always he is thinking about the team. "Football has been one of the best parts of my life and I am trying to finish off on a positive note," said Nugent. "I'm very proud of our team and we are coming together as a whole team which is the first time I have seen that since I have been here. We've had some talent in years past but we never seemed to mold together, but this year we are really coming together as a team."

Playing with a fractured wrist, taking on and shutting down tall wide receivers, refusing to accept defeat and working hard all year round, Nugent has proven that he exudes the spirit and attitude that led to the Holy Cross football tradition that he so much wanted to be a part of four years ago.