After Spending a Productive Year Away from Princeton, Senior Star Tyler Primed for Big Finale with Tiger Football
HAPPY TO BE BACK: Princeton University football player Jeremiah Tyler enjoying the proceedings at the program’s recently-held Media Day. Senior star linebacker Tyler is looking forward to a big senior year after not enrolling at Princeton last year. In 2019, Tyler was unanimously first-team All-Ivy and was one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. Tyler has been named as one of the six captains for the 2021 squad along with classmates Collin Eaddy, Trevor Forbes, Nikola Ivanisevic, James Johnson, and Cole Smith. Princeton, which had its 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, returns to action this fall by playing at Lehigh on September 18. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Jeremiah Tyler took a year off from Princeton University in 2020-21 but he didn’t take it easy.
The star senior linebacker for the Princeton football team gained strength and weight, got a taste of the real world, and deepened the bonds with his teammates during his time away from school.
“At the first half of the year I stayed at home in Detroit and I trained with the trainer to focus on myself and gain weight; that was a huge emphasis for me,” said Tyler.
“I was with my parents just working internships. I’m really grateful for the PFA [Princeton Football Association], they’re a huge help for all of Princeton. Just getting that internship and that work time, getting that experience of real life is good. You get that under your belt and the second half I moved in with some teammates. We went to Nashville, which was a good time. We got a gym down there — Gym 5 — shouts out to them — and they were really nice about everything. They were very welcoming, let us lift and power lift and all that jazz. In Nashville we had about 20 guys total. It was two different houses.”
As Tyler hit the field for preseason training, that work had him looking like a different guy.
“Last time I weighed out I was around 207,” said the 6’1 Tyler, who had a superb 2019 season, getting named as an unanimous first-team All-Ivy League performer and as one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.
“Now I’m 227, so I gained a good 20 pounds, but healthy. Hopefully I don’t look too chunky.”
There has been a healthy attitude around the preseason camp as the Tigers are thrilled to be back on the field together as a full team for the first time since November 23, 2019 when they defeated Penn 28-7 to finish that season 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League and then saw their 2020 campaign canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“There’s always a ton of smiles around camp, even when you’re hurting because we’re just happy to see each other and you’re happy to be there and happy to play football again,” said Tyler, who had 62 tackles, with 14.5 going for a loss, including 3.5 sacks, in 2019 and has 105 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended in his career.
“It’s just so good to play football again from that year and everything that we went through as a team, as a community, as humans. It took a toll on everyone. Having everyone here on one accord and one place, it feels great.”
While there may be plenty of smiles, there are also the bumps and bruises that come with the grind of camp.
“We’re taking it a day at a time at camp, especially now because it’s crucial,” said Tyler.
“When you’re hurting and you’re tired and sore and don’t want to go to practice, you have to grind through it because the person next to you is doing it for you, so you have to do it for everybody. You have to set that tone and that culture because that’s what we’re about. You have to push through adversity. You’re going to face adversity in football, in life, wherever you are. There’s always going to be a challenge. We’re not going to back down from that. That’s how we become closer as a team.”
In Tyler’s view, the Tiger defense is pushing hard to get on the same page as they prepare to open the 2021 season by playing at Lehigh (0-2) on September 18.
“We have to keep focusing on the small details, because that’s really what’s important — details,” said Tyler.
“Once we become more detail-oriented as a defense, then we will excel. I feel like we just have to take it a day at a time honestly. I’m confident in our D-line, our linebackers, our DBs, I’m confident in our whole defense because everybody has been grinding and putting in that work. I’m really excited to see what we’re going to bring forth to the table September 18. I’m really looking forward to that. In order to get to that point, we still have to get better and better each and every day.”
With his experience and laurels, Tyler is looking to pass on some of his hard-earned expertise to his teammates.
“I’m looking to bring leadership and actually for my young players I would like them to feel comfortable to come to tell me problems that they have in and outside of football,” said Tyler, who has been named as one of the six captains for the 2021 squad along with classmates Collin Eaddy, Trevor Forbes, Nikola Ivanisevic, James Johnson, and Cole Smith.
“I would just like to become a better mentor. I want to focus on bringing my team together because that’s what we need. We essentially have two freshman classes and so I want that bond to stick. So I need to do this during camp because when we go into the season then we’ll all fall on each other’s back.”
Along with Tyler, 16 other teammates put off their senior year at Princeton in 2020-21, looking to bring a proper sense of closure to their Tiger football career.
“As soon as we got the news, I told them, ‘We’re coming back. I don’t care what we have to do,’ ” recalled Tyler.
“I said ‘I don’t care how many letters we have to write. I don’t care who we have to write to. We can call the president. We have to talk to him. We have to let him know that we have to come back.’ I’m grateful to even spend that time with those guys because we were all seniors and it’s good to learn about each other, learn our downfalls, learn our strengths. That really brought us together as a leadership group and then we had a solid leadership group to come back into camp to try to gain the respect of our young guys and bring us together as a team.”
While Tyler has been named to the Buchanan Award watch list (given to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision), to the Stats Perform third-team preseason All-American, and is a bona-fide NFL prospect, his thoughts aren’t on his long-range future in the game.
“I’m not even focused on the next level right now I’m actually focused on tomorrow’s practice,” said Tyler.
“I have to get through that in order to even get to the next level. Actually I’m really focused on bringing my team together right now, going to practice every day and making sure we get everything done, like the small details I preached on earlier, we have to clean that up, and everything will play out. If we keep grinding the way we are now, everything will fall into place.”
And there is no place where Tyler would rather be this fall than on the field with his Princeton teammates for one final college campaign.
“I couldn’t miss another year with these kids,” said Tyler.
“The way we went out, if I would have went out like that, I would have felt like I was letting my family down. I’d feel like I was walking out on them. So I’m going to wait, patience is a virtue, as they say. I had to come back. I felt like I was going to let these guys down if I didn’t and I felt that within my heart.”