Of the two Georgia seniors starting on defense for the last time at Sanford Stadium today, cornerback Brandon Boykin has drawn much more in the way of attention than defensive end DeAngelo Tyson.
But while the 6-foot-2, 306-pound Tyson may not be a player who brings the fans to their feet whenever he’s on the field, he’s turned in an impressive season-long performance for the No. 13 Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 Southeastern Conference), who host Kentucky (4-6, 1-5) today in their bid to become the SEC’s Eastern Division champions.
His play in 2011 — 20 tackles, 3 1⁄2 tackles for loss and 1 1⁄2 quarterback sacks for a defensive front that has limited opponents to an average of 61 rushing yards per game — pinpoints the serene progress he’s made since his freshman season.
“DeAngelo is what I would consider an unsung hero,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He plays a position that sometimes doesn’t get a whole lot of credit. He’s been very efficient and a really good football player for us, but he’s done it in quiet fashion. He’s a quiet guy, a man of few words. But he’s really come a long way as a player and even more so as a person. He’s grown up now, he’s a man now and I’m really proud of him.”
“He’s come a long way since his freshman year,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner added. “Sometimes you still second-guess yourself, and at times I wish I had redshirted him his freshman year so he’d be a redshirt junior and still have another year to go, but I’ve been pleased. He’s progressed, and year in and year out he’s gotten better and just to see him have success is definitely rewarding to me.”
Spending much of his adolescence residing at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in his native Statesboro, Tyson admits he’s not outwardly emotional, adding he’s balancing the realization of his last home game with the reality of needing a crucial victory.
“I knew this day was coming, but as it gets closer, you start thinking about it a lot more,” he said. “It will be a very special day for me and my fellow seniors. It’s a game we have to win and an opportunity to reach our goal, so we’ve got to come out, be focused and play hard.”
Tyson hit the ground running at Georgia, recording 11 tackles in 13 games as a freshman. He played in all 13 games in 2010 and 2011, but his consecutive-game streak ended at 41 on Sept. 17 when a weight room injury prevented him from suiting up for Coastal Carolina.
“I was disappointed to miss (the Coastal Carolina) game because I wasn’t able to contribute and help the team,” he said. “I think of our team as a family, and you don’t want to watch your brothers win, you want to help your brothers win. So it was kind of disappointing not to be out there on the field.”
Although he’s a quiet individual, Tyson occasionally makes his presence felt vocally, and opponents are well aware of his presence.
“If a game isn’t going the way he likes it, or the defense isn’t playing right, he gets kind of mad,” defensive end Abry Jones said. “He’s not a vocal person with everybody mostly with the defensive line. At practice, if people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, he makes himself known to them.”
“He’s pretty quiet and soft-spoken, but everybody knows him on that field,” cornerback Sanders Commings added. “At the end of the game, whoever he’s gone against will remember who No. 94 is.”
Tyson hasn’t exactly flown under the radar during his Bulldog career. He was named to the Freshman All-SEC team in 2008, earned preseason All-SEC honors this year and recorded a phenomenal 16 tackles last November in Georgia’s 42-34 victory over Georgia Tech.
“You’ve got to have guys who are willing to help the team and I think I’m one of those guys,” said Tyson, who is set to graduate next summer with a degree in housing. “You’ve got to be a team player and not look for the spotlight. If you’re looking for the spotlight, you’re really not helping your team. You need to help your team whenever you can. That’s the job I’ve taken on since I’ve been here.”
It goes without saying that even though he is a hushed presence, Tyson’s absence will be felt.
“I will most definitely miss him,” Garner said. “He’s like a son to me. I love him to death and I’m so proud of him. I’ve seen him grow in all areas, not just football. He’s grown academically, socially, spiritually, everything. Just to see him develop into the man he is definitely gives me a sense of pride. He’s on course to get his degree and I’m proud of that, too.”