TYLER, Texas – Tyler (Texas) Junior College associate head coach Ryan Mahon has seen the magic of quarterback Tyrik Rollison time and time again. It’s to a point where describing what Rollison does on the football field is borderline legendary.
“We’ve seen Cam Newton come through here, and we’ve seen Michael Bishop come through here. Tyrik’s up there with those guys,” Mahon said. “He is elite, and I keep telling coaches if you recruit him, you’ll get another job, a better job.”
Mahon then followed with a cuts-like-a-knife sentence.
“He’s the best athlete I’ve ever coached,” he said.
For those asking how good Rollison is, understand that Mahon’s been on the Tyler staff since January 2005. He just wrapped up his eighth season coaching against players in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, one of the elite juco conferences nationwide. He’s seen some impeccable talent come through the juco ranks.
Rollison, the reigning SWJCFC Offensive MVP, ranks right up there with them.
“That’s like the best compliment,” Rollison said, “but I try not to look at it like that. Honestly, I just go out and play ball.”
Rollison threw for 2,940 yards and 23 touchdowns for a Tyler team that lost in the semifinals of the conference playoffs. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback also rushed for five touchdowns, which tied for third on the team with Lamar Carraway.
Not a bad season for the one-time Auburn signee who was considered a player to watch in the Class of 2009 -- a class that included USC’s Matt Barkley, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. It’s the kind of season that could potentially get him back to a school such as Auburn very soon, his academic records pending.
Rollison isn’t one who sugarcoats. He’s the first to say he didn’t take care of his business academically while at Auburn. Rollison, who originally picked Auburn over Kansas State, was suspended from Auburn’s game against Northwestern in the Outback Bowl for academic reasons during the 2009 season.
Rollison then announced in February 2010 that in an effort to be closer to home, he would transfer to Sam Houston State -- just missing the chance to play alongside Cam Newton, who signed with Auburn after leading SWJCFC opponent Blinn (Texas) College to a NJCAA national title in 2009. Newton ultimately won a BCS national title and the Heisman Trophy during the 2010 season.
For Mahon to compare Rollison with Newton speaks volumes. As a high school senior at Sulphur Springs (Texas), Rollison threw for 4,728 yards and 51 touchdowns and rushed for 1,094 yards. Rollison led Sulphur Springs to a Texas Class 4A Division II state title in 2008.
The effort he’s made on the juco level has been noteworthy. There isn’t a game Rollison feels he will lose, no matter how many points his team trails and how much time plays against him. A great example of that occurred Sept. 27 against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
With seven seconds remaining and Tyler down a touchdown, Rollison had the offense on their own 48-yard line. With time for one final play, Rollison launched a throw in the end zone, and it was caught by JaVante Mack for the 52-yard, last-second prayer. Tyler went on to beat NEO, 65-59, in two overtimes.
“I take it seriously when I step on the field,” Rollison said. “I try to let the natural things take over.”
Mahon added: “He has a great skill set. There are things he’s done that I wish I taught him. He just has that it factor.”
Overcoming adversity has been routine for Rollison since high school. Following the Auburn situation, Rollison didn’t get a chance to play a regular-season game at Sam Houston State after breaking his left wrist -- his non-throwing wrist -- in an intersquad scrimmage.
Rollison admitted to almost hanging up his cleats after the wrist injury, which followed a nagging MCL injury in his left knee. He said one of his friends basically talked him into continuing his career at Tyler, where he met Mahon, head coach Danny Palmer and the rest of the staff.
“I gave it another shot. I’m glad I did,” he said. “When you fall, it’s up to you to get up.”
Mahon said Rollison, in addition to having tons of athleticism, plays with a ridiculous amount of confidence. He’s a player who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, but also someone who still feels he’s not in peak shape. While being named Offensive MVP for the conference, Rollison is one of those players who asks himself what he could have done better.
So who’s recruiting Rollison?
“Everybody,” Mahon said. “Everybody in America.”
Mahon said multiple schools have inquired about Rollison. Neither Rollison or Mahon, however, will mention schools, as they both want the focus to stay on Rollison’s academic goals. Rollison is expecting to be a spring signee, and he will have until April 1 to make a decision -- as long as he takes care of business in the classroom.
Once that happens, Rollison will look at playing for a program and working toward the next step, a possible professional career. His motivation stems from a past that would make for a nice book. That, and his family.
Rollison is the proud father of two girls, Tyannah and Serenity. Having them one day tell their friends about their NFL-playing father is one of many dreams for him.
“The only way they’re going to eat is if I eat,” said Rollison, referring to his play on the field. “I want to make noise for my kids.
“I think back to this season, and I think I had an OK season. Just to be able to play ball again, that was a blessing in itself. To be able to suit up and play with no regrets, that meant a lot.”