Salado coach’s son uses football to battle autism
“Tyler! You missed two questions! Are you kidding me?!” his mother, Lori, sarcastically chided.
Although she was merely poking fun at his great test score, Tyler was heart broken over his mother’s response.
“He kind of thought I was getting on to him, when I was just giving him praise,” Lori said. “When I’d see his facial expressions, I could tell it hurt his feelings.”
That sort of reaction used to be a daily sight around the Talbott household.
Tyler, the 14-year-old son of recently promoted Salado athletic director/head football coach Glenn Talbott and his wife Lori, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome — a high-functioning form of autism — in the second grade.
Asperger’s, named for Austrian physician Hans Asperger who first described it in 1944, is an autistic spectrum disorder that is generally characterized by problems with social interaction and eccentric behavior.
But through his involvement in football — an act almost unheard of among children afflicted with Asperger’s — the Talbotts have seen Tyler make some drastic and dramatic changes.
“It used to be very hard for him to fit in. The other kids didn’t know how to relate to him,” Lori said. “But the minute he stepped on the field as a seventh grade football player, he belonged to something, and I think it gave him confidence to be a part of a group.”
With his knuckles grinding into the grass, and feet churning behind him, his focus is unwavering — Tyler is going to make the tackle.
Lined up in a traditional fourpoint stance, the 150-pound freshman Eagles defensive tackle explodes off the line as soon as the ball is snapped.
Powering through the opposing offensive lineman, Tyler squares up and meets his target — the ball carrier — in the backfield.
“It makes me feel really good — self-confident — I want to have more of that,” Tyler said of playing football. “... I feel like I have a calling from God — this is what He’s calling me to do.”
It was the first of only three tackles he made during a morning two-a-day practice last Tuesday, but Tyler acted like it was No. 250.
“He’s real confident — he thinks he’s the best football player there is,” Glenn grinned. “Which is good, and he just thinks he’s the biggest and baddest thing out there right now, and that’s fine for him to think that because that translates to him playing hard.”
Hard is an understatement when describing Tyler’s “go-untilthe whistle” approach, as he continually pursued the ball-carrier even after the play had passed him by.
Becoming a team player
Athletics have always been a huge part of the Talbott household, but because of his disorder, Tyler never seemed interested in any sports as a child.
“The fact that he’s in athletics at all surprised the both of us,” Lori said. “Growing up, Glenn could never get him out in the yard to kick the ball or pass the ball — just play.”
Generally, children with Asperger’s feature motor clumsiness along with problems processing loud noises and tactile experiences, all of which can inhibit physical activity in organized sports.
“With team sports, you have to be a team player, and in order to be a team player, you have to be able to anticipate what other people are doing and that’s very hard for these kids,” McCallon said.
“And also, the action can move very quickly, so they have to process things very quickly, and that’s also very hard for them. So, very often, it’s just too much going on too quick for them to be able to keep up with.”
Yet, through football, Tyler has found a way to overcome many of the limitations generally associated with Asperger’s.
“If he’s able to push himself beyond his comfort zone, and do things a lot of people with Aspergers wouldn’t do, then he’s just going to be helped tremendously by his ability to do that,” McCallon said.
Glenn has always considered himself a teacher first and foremost.
That’s why he was the first to realize Tyler was different.
“Even when he was little — in toddler years — I’d look at other kids in groups and he acted just a little bit different,” Glenn said. “... I always just thought, ‘He’s not responding like other kids.’”
After both parents accepted their son was not like the other children in school, the Talbotts had their fears confirmed — Tyler had Asperger’s.
“It was hard. It was sad. My first reactions were, ‘What did I do wrong during the pregnancy?’” Lori said. “But, after reading about it — and we just love him so much — I came to grips that out of all the mommies in the entire world, God wanted me to be Tyler’s mommy. And that’s a special gift.” THE STARTING LINEUPS
|No.||Pos. Player, Ht.-Wt.||Class|
|12||FB||Richard Vasquez, 5-10, 175||Sr|
|7||WR||J.J. Lewis, 5-9,||165||Sr|
|20||WR||Dillon||Goodman, 5-10, 135||Jr|
|6||TE||Derek||David, 6-3, 225||Jr|
|71||LG||Sal Bishop, 6-4, 250||Sr|
|50||C||Patrick David, 6-0, 235||Jr|
|50||NG||Patrick David, 6-0, 235||Jr|
|71||DL||Sal Bishop, 6-4, 250||Sr|
|18||LB||James||David, 6-2, 205||Fr|
|10||LB||Jared||Carpenter, 6-2, 220||Sr|
|6||LB||Derek||David, 6-3, 225||Jr|
|11||CB||Terral||Dixon, 5-9, 160||Jr|
|2||S||Casey||Burrough, 5-8, 160||Sr|
|12||S||Richard Vasquez, 5-10, 175||Sr|
|34||DE||Reece||Nicholson, 6-0, 200||So|
|64||DT||Billy Golding,||6-1, 230||So|
|54||DT||Sam Barrett,||6-0, 185||So|
|5||DE||Peyton||Best 5-10, 180||Jr|
|33||LB||Colton||Newman, 6-2, 190||Sr|
|90||LB||Clint Scarborough,||6-3,||225 Sr|
|6||LB||Jim Wentrcek, 5-8,||160||Jr|
|22||CB||Fabian||Saucedo, 5-9, 175||So|
|25||S||Cole Calder,||5-11 185||Sr|
|7||QB||Cole Brentham, 5-10, 175||Sr|
|34||RB||Reece||Nicholson, 6-0, 200||So|
|84||WR||Shannon Ponder, 5-10, 165||Sr|
|1||WR||Austin||Armstrong, 6-1, 225||Jr|
|57||LG||Daniel||Goldman, 6-0, 220||Jr|
|53||C||Michael Sellers, 6-2, 230||Jr|
|66||RT||Chance Williams, 6-2, 190||Sr|