Scott Varley / Daily Breeze/SCNG
Scott Varley / Daily Breeze/SCNG
NORWALK, Calif. — Just about everything went wrong for the Servite High School football team on the night of Oct. 7.
Quarterback Tyler Lytle, who has verbally committed to play collegiately at Colorado, had a pass bounce off his receiver’s shoulder and into the arms of a defender, who returned it for a touchdown. The Friars had a punt blocked and returned for another score. And, defensively, they couldn’t stop the No. 4 team in the country.
St. John Bosco crushed Servite, 70-6, at Cerritos College, but throughout the night, it was easy to see why Colorado and two dozen other schools have offered a scholarship to Lytle, who spent the evening encouraging his teammates as the game slipped away.
Lytle is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds with a rocket arm and good mobility. He’s smart, a leader and possesses a strong will.
“He’s probably the best quarterback that I’ve coached,” Servite head coach Scott Meyer said.
Lytle could also be the best quarterback prospect CU has had in years. He’s got more Division I scholarship offers than the last 18 prep quarterbacks the Buffs have signed, combined.
With more than three months to go before national signing day in February, Lytle is arguably the key to what is shaping up as a strong 2017 class for the CU football program.
“I’m extremely excited,” Lytle said. “Our recruiting is definitely heading in the right direction.”
Other schools are continually contacting Lytle, and he did take an official visit to Indiana a week after the loss to Bosco, but he told BuffZone.com this week he is “absolutely” still committed to CU.
In June, Lytle flew to Boulder to personally tell CU coaches he planned to sign with the Buffs.
“Colorado just really stuck out to me,” he said. “The coaching staff recruited me extremely hard. I absolutely love the campus, love the school. There are really no drawbacks for me. It really just made sense for me and was the best fit for me overall.”
It was a thorough process to reach that decision.
At the suggestion of his father, Mike, Tyler built a matrix to chart the pros and cons of each school on his list.
Tyler wants to major in business, so Mike made sure only top business schools were on the list, but from there, the decision was up to Tyler, who rated the schools on a points system.
“Then he got to the emotional aspect of it,” said his mother, Deana.
Tyler was torn between a handful of schools, so Deana offered a suggestion.
“I said, ‘I want you to go to bed thinking that you’re going to go to this school and see how you feel when you wake up in the morning,'” Deana said.
Every time, Tyler would wake up and have second thoughts or some sort of concerns about that school.
“The night that he said, ‘I’m going to go to Colorado,’ he woke up the next morning and he still felt really good about it,” Deana said. “That, to him, kind of said, ‘OK that was the right choice for me.'”
If Tyler does wind up at Colorado (until he officially signs, he’s free to change his mind), the Buffaloes will get not only a physical talent, but a young man who is quickly developing the intangible qualities of a good quarterback.
Tyler has proven he’s willing to work hard and make sacrifices for what he wants.
Every day, he and his brother, Spencer — a sophomore tight end for Servite — commute an hour each way to school, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to get there on time.
“With Servite’s homework load, we usually get to sleep around 12, so we’re only getting five-and-a-half hours of sleep at night,” Tyler said. “In the mornings, one of us sleeps while the other is driving to get that extra hour in, which helps.
“It’s definitely a huge commitment, but I love it. It’s definitely worth it.”
Tyler has also worked hard to become a leader for the Friars. This past offseason, Servite offensive coordinator Oscar McBride — a former Notre Dame and NFL tight end — challenged Tyler to be more vocal.
This year, he was elected to Servite’s curia of eight leaders — sort of a governing body — which meets every Monday.
“It’s huge,” Tyler said of being a leader as a quarterback. “Being vocal in the locker room, being vocal on the field and things like that is something I’ve really grown into.”
Junior receiver Delon Hurt, who also has a scholarship offer from CU, said Tyler’s best attribute as a quarterback is his leadership.
After one game earlier this year, the referee told Meyer, “I really like your quarterback, and not just the way he plays, but the stuff he was saying in the huddle; just very confident and making the guys around him feel confident.”
It was the first time Meyer has ever had a referee say anything like that to him after a game.
Tyler’s leadership has been vital to CU in the recruiting process. More than half of CU’s 20 committed players have given their pledge to the Buffs since Lytle did so on June 21. Many of them got the full-court press from Lytle, who has been one of CU’s best recruiters over the past four months.
After the game against St. John Bosco, Tyler embraced Bosco defensive end Jacob Callier, who has an offer from CU, and said, “This is the last time we’ll be playing against each other, right?”
“He’s always doing that and talking to me about Colorado,” Callier said with a laugh.
Callier then added that CU is one of the top schools on his list.
For Mike and Deana, it’s been a pleasure to watch their son grow up in a hurry and become a leader to not only his teammates at Servite, but to CU’s group of recruits.
“He matured really fast,” Deana said. “We always felt he was a little bit young for his age, but this past year, he really turned. He’s not gotten arrogant about (all of the attention) at all. He just feels very grateful for even having the opportunities.”
Mike had hoped Tyler would pick an Ivy League school — he has offers from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Yale — but was pleased with how Tyler came to his decision on his own.
Tyler called it a “blind leap of faith” to commit to CU before the Buffs proved they could win. Now the Buffs are 6-2, bowl eligible for the first time in nine years and in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. Their success makes Tyler feel even better about his choice.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think we had 18 commits before the season started. We really bought into what they were selling us. They’ve proved it and they’ve definitely lived up to the expectation that they set for themselves and that they told us.”
When he committed, Tyler knew that CU was losing starting quarterback Sefo Liufau to graduation after this season and that very little experience was returning to the quarterback position in 2017.
Then Liufau sprained his ankle and redshirt freshman Steven Montez took over for three weeks, playing lights out football and earning Pac-12 player of the week honors after his first start.
Montez has three years of eligibility left after this season, and talented true freshman Sam Noyer will have four. Rather than get deterred by Montez’s performance, Lytle got excited. He can’t wait to get to Boulder to compete.
“Every Division I school has good quarterbacks,” Tyler said. “I’m completely comfortable competing with anybody in the country, and the depth chart of a school really won’t be a factor in my decision. I feel I’m good enough to compete with everybody in the country and that’s what I intend to do when I end up at Colorado.
“You have to come in and compete and win the job.”
Whether or not Tyler can be a star in college remains to be seen. But, as his senior season at Servite winds down, there’s no doubt he’s put himself in a position to succeed at the next level.
Over the years, the Lytle family has moved around the country, from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Seattle to Orlando to San Diego and now to Redondo Beach. Tyler’s next move will be on his own, and he appears to be ready for the challenge.
“I’m excited for him,” Mike said. “We’re a very tight family, so it’ll be hard, but we’re ready to let him soar.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.