TERRE HAUTE —
Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. until the 11 o’clock services Saturday at Second Missionary Baptist Church for Emmitt “Tank” Tyler.
The former Garfield and Indiana State fullback and linebacker passed away on Jan. 8 and is survived by his wife Debra and sons Emmitt II and Ethan, along with three goddaughters, two sisters, five brothers and a huge extended family.
He and I didn’t overlap at ISU — his last football season in the fall of 1965 was the year before I arrived — so I know about his playing days only via his reputation. The younger Emmitt did a tremendous job of sending me statistics and other material, only to be thwarted by the Tribune-Star computer system. But stats don’t do justice to the man anyway, and I’ll just have to go with what I know.
There was actually one stat that was readable, his average of five yards per carry while leading the Sycamores in rushing and earning all-Indiana Collegiate Conference honors as a senior. That would have been five yards per carry almost entirely run between the tackles, up the middle, into the teeth of the other team’s defense. Whenever I heard people talking about Tank Tyler, the same phrase always came up: “He could move the pile.”
After graduating from ISU, he became a teacher and coach, first at Gerstmeyer, then at Terre Haute North, and for awhile at IVTech. And when I eventually met him, I was struck by two things: the fact that he was such a modest, soft-spoken gentleman, and the fact that he wasn’t all that big. He was listed as 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds on the Indiana State roster, even though he played so much bigger.
In addition to being a teacher, he was a mentor, a shining example to young men in his community and a willing worker for any neighborhood cause or organization. I came to know and admire his two sons, both of whom are coaches and mentors themselves.
And once I saw him angry.
Emmitt Sr. was quietly observing North practice as usual that day and Emmitt II — who is quite a bit larger than his father — apparently did something that his father felt was disrespectful.
The response was quick, furious and decisive. I’m pretty sure Emmitt II has never forgotten it — or been foolish enough to repeat whatever it was that precipitated his father’s rage — and I immediately understood what moved those piles.
So rest in peace, my friend. I’m pretty sure you were a great athlete, but I’m totally certain you were a great man.
Andy Amey can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.