Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Diehard Razorback fan excels on the field at West Point
Ty Galyean scores in a 2015 game against Navy with the Sprint Football team at West Point Military Academy. The former Rogers High standout was a captain of the Army team that won the 2017 Collegiate Sprint Football League.
Ty Galyean’s story was pitched by a Rogers school teacher in the middle of football season. Simply put, there is a winner with Razorback pride operating at a high level in college football.
The more I checked, the better the story became. The interview would have to wait until Thanksgiving when player and reporter could match their schedules. It was a good story when I first heard about it in September, it was something much larger when there was finally a chance to meet at a Rogers burger joint.
Saying Galyean is prideful is an understatement of great proportions. He has pride in everything and makes his mark in all areas at the highest level.
The former Rogers High football player is now the captain of the sprint football team at West Point, a graduating Army cadet headed for aviation. He’ll be wearing Second Lieutenant bars soon.
I first heard about him because he was a Hawgs Illustrated subscriber at West Point, courtesy of his mom. Ty just had to keep up with the Razorbacks.
“I am the obnoxious Razorback fan you’ve heard about, telling everyone around me about every game, every victory in every sport,” Galyean said. “If the Razorbacks are playing and it’s on ESPN3, then I’m logged in with my laptop. If it’s basketball, baseball or whatever, I’m watching every single thing. I rarely miss a baseball game on the Internet.”
Football is more difficult to follow live because Galyean is on the gridiron himself on most weekends. He did find some tickets to attend the Mississippi State game while home for Thanksgiving, his first to attend since his junior year in high school.
Sprint football is unique to the Northeast, a fantastic game with a 178-pound player weight limit. The Army and Navy teams have played since the 1950s when it was 150 pounds or under, along with a few Ivy League schools. Not surprisingly, the military academies have dominated, like Army did this year.
Army rolled to an 8-0 record, beating Penn for the Collegiate Sprint Football League title. It was the 35th national title for the cadets.
The Cadets needed a last-second miss by Bentonville’s Bennett Moehring to beat Navy in the Division I game in the snow last the weekend, but the Black Knights easily beat the Midshipmen in the sprint game, 40-6.
It’s the fourth national championship for coach Mark West in his 10 years at the sprint helm. The Lt. Colonel missed one season in 2010 while deployed in Iraq. West is a 1991 West Point graduate, quarterbacking the Black Knights to a three-year record of 17-1-1.
Galyean has been front and center for the last three seasons as a starter and one of the team’s most reliable receivers. He has 55 catches with 14 touchdowns in his last three seasons, leading the way with 25 catches this season.
“Ty isn’t just one of our captains, he’s deputy captain of all captains here,” West said. “That’s saying a lot at West Point. That’s number two among our captains in (25) intercollegiate sports.
“What we do here is attract leaders, the top of the top from across the country. And, he’s a leader of leaders. That tells you what his teammates think about him. They voted him that.”
West gets a few scholarships for the sprint football team, but most of his players find him, as Galyean did.
Galyean was a starter at Rogers, playing slot receiver, fullback and quarterback in a triple-option system under former coach Sean Flanagan. But it wasn’t perfect preparation for West’s offense in sprint football.
“We run a West Coast spread with Coach West, the Tony Franklin system they ran at UCLA,” Galyean said. “We ran the wishbone at Rogers. My senior year the entire team had 13 completions. It was triple-option. We had a lot of injuries my senior year so I got to play everything, including quarterback.”
Galyean didn’t grow up with West Point thoughts. It wasn’t on his radar until the winter of his junior year.
“I got a college recruiting letter from West Point,” he said. “I didn’t know a thing about the place so I put in on the pile with all of the others.
“I talked to my dad about it. He said it was something I might should check out.”
West Point recruiting letters go out to only the top students that fit as potential leaders. U.S. Representative Steve Womack, a Rogers resident, put it in proper perspective.
“What we are doing with the vetting process is targeting the best,” Womack said. “Consider this: we are getting students with a perfect (36) ACT score, most of them in the mid 30s with 4.0 grades. They are captains of every team they participate in sports. Automatically, they are the highest performers.
“They are ultra competitive. Keep in mind, at West Point the purpose is to produce warriors to lead our troops into battle.
“So it is a real source of pride for me to have watched Ty grow and develop at West Point. I watched him play several games, including the championship game against Penn last month.”
Womack, a retired colonel in the Arkansas Army National Guard, is personally involved as a member of the West Point Board of Visitors, something akin to the regents of most colleges. He’s watched Galyean from the interview process forward.
Galyean got his selection letter two weeks ago with his military assignment for after graduation. He will go to aviation school, likely to be trained to fly an attack helicopter.
“I don’t know exactly what I’ll fly,” Galyean said. “It doesn’t really matter. It was my first preference.”
First, there is some work to complete at West Point. A highly trained civil engineer, he’s been selected for an internship within the athletic department. He’s helping finalize the blueprints for a redesign of the football stadium.
West beams about that thought of one of his players touching something of such great importance, but there will be other memories about Galyean that will be hard to forget, too. Galyean caught a 98-yard touchdown pass as a junior, the sprint national record.
Obviously, in an understatement, West said, “It’s a record that will be hard to beat.”
Galyean popped on a seam route and was 6 yards in the open immediately.
“Someone was running me down and I had to make a move,” he said. “I got a block from another Arkansas guy, Austin Breed.”
There’s another great moment.
“One of my most cherished memories of Ty was from his sophomore year,” West said. “We were tied with Navy. Ty caught a big touchdown pass to win the game. It was a great play.”
Galyean likes that play, too. He described a pick play that worked to perfection. He popped free outside and scored untouched on the 13-yard play.
“We were tied and that touchdown gave us the lead in the fourth quarter,” he said. “Navy scored, but we blocked the extra point to win, 24-23.”
There’s more to the story.
“I caught a lot of flak from my teammates,” he said. “I was in the clear and I dove in the end zone for some reason. I didn’t have to. There’s a picture of it. In the background there were some of the top brass cheering, including our West Point superintendent.
“I do love that picture. Maybe I shouldn’t have dove, but I’m glad I did it.”
There are no regrets about anything, especially picking sprint football.
“I had never heard about it,” he said. “It was sometime during my senior year in high school that I just Googled the West Point site for athletics and started reading about the sprint team. It was listed with the other varsity sports.”
Galyean just filled out an online information form that eventually wound up with the coaching staff. After just a little research, West said Galyean was bumped into the sprint unit for basic training required of all incoming freshmen.
“It’s just a period during the day where we do some football drills,” West said. “It’s a chance for us to install our (football) system. Some of them are our recruits, but it also gives us a chance to check out some others.”
It didn’t take West long to fall in love with Galyean.
“I call him our diamond in the rough,” he said. “He had ability, great speed.”
And, he was at the top end of the weight class. The goal is to find the best athletes just under 178.
“I knew he was going to be a good one,” West said. “He’s got breakaway speed, very deceptive.
“We are in the spread with four wide. It’s either two by two or three by one. We played Ty at the Y, sort of our tight end. We flex him but he can play inside and we counted on him to block. He’s a little bigger than our other receivers.”
It’s a fun game, as you can imagine with everyone under 178. It’s a little bit like wrestling with players monitored for weight.
“We weigh-in twice a week,” West said. “Generally, everyone is going to make weight, but we did have a linebacker miss one game to start this season. That happens once in a blue moon.
“I think the entire cadet corps respects these guys. No one else playing football has to cut weight to play. Our guys play the game the right way, too. They have a good reputation.”
It was clear that meant something to Galyean, but he said it’s just about being part of a team. There’s that in everything that happens at West Point.
“I learned that in basic (training) that first summer,” he said. “Really, you need something to help relax you in everything you are doing at West Point. Playing on the sprint team was a release.
“That first summer at basic, it was just 7-on-7 stuff. But I knew it was going to be fun. It’s normal football, but with smaller guys and it’s so fast.
“During the season, it’s two hours of the day you get to forget about what’s out there in front of you, maybe two tests and two papers. You are doing something you love with your best friends.”
The daily grind of a cadet is total competition.
“But what makes it great is that everyone pulls for everyone else even when you compete in every single thing,” he said. “You are graded and measured against each other, but you see someone struggling in an area, you are going to help them figure it out. You are teammates as cadets. It’s a shared experience.
“I do think sprint football helped me become more efficient and organized in my study. It made me figure out how to get things done more quickly. You lost that two hours, but you make it up by being better at night when it’s time to study.
“Sometimes you get done with homework at 11 p.m., but sometimes it is 2 a.m. I don’t think playing football hindered my academics. It made me better.”
West understands. He was a star quarterback for the sprint team at Army, the league player of the year on an undefeated team.
“I came to Army as a Division I player,” he said. “I was semi-recruited, undersized and getting my brains beat in playing scout team quarterback. I was 175 and that was when sprint rules put the weight at 158.
“I was having a tough time with cadet life. My academics were down. Someone pulled me out of the mess hall and asked me to come play for the sprint team. It saved me. Sprint football means everything to me.
“When I hear my players say now it’s an escape, I get it. They are grinding it out and football helps them.
“I will say that I challenge them at times with what we do in practice, but they are pretty easy to coach. I do have it lucky. I get an incredible bunch.”
Womack wanted to take that a few steps further.
“What you have on this team is a winning disposition just by the very makeup of every individual,” Womack said. “They are all highly motivated with a warrior’s attitude.
“Most of the players on this team come from the skilled positions on their high school teams. They were the quarterbacks, the wide receivers, and the backs. They have a fierce nature.
“The environment is amazing. It’s a culture that breeds a warrior’s ethos, unlike anything there is anywhere.
“Let me just say that I have a lot of pride in everything about Ty Galyean. I have a lot of confidence in saying our aviation branch is about to get a great leader.”
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