Senior tight end Tyler Coyle has scored seven touchdowns as a Mountain Hawk, and they have all ended the same way: a ball flip to the referee, a quick celebratory huddle with his teammates and a brisk jog back to the bench. No shimmy, no pointing up to the sky and definitely no yelling.
Talk is cheap for the 6-foot-3, 255-pound linebacker-convert from West Milford, New Jersey.
“There’s a lot of guys on the team that are vocal – I was always the shy kid growing up,” Coyle said. “I’m one of those guys that let my play do the talking. I don’t even talk a lot of smack out there. I guess if you see me in the end zone, you know I’m doing something right.”
Epitomizing the “gentle giant” persona, Coyle just wants to help people. In the midst of his all-county and all-conference football and basketball careers at West Milford High School, Coyle volunteered at Starlight Ranch, a facility where mentally challenged children have the opportunity to ride horses.
Not exactly the stereotypical extracurricular activity for a bone-crushing blocking tight end.
What started as a résumé builder for the daunting college process became one of the most gratifying experiences of Coyle’s life after 18 months of volunteer work at the ranch.
“There were these therapeutic horses, and half the time, the kids didn’t want to get out of the car with their parents,” Coyle said. “The second they sat on these horses, they shut up. They didn’t say a word. I guess it brought them happiness, and we’d just walk in circles. They were just so happy.”
Coyle recalled one instance where a screaming toddler refused to get out of the car at the ranch. Out came 6-foot-3 all-state linebacker Coyle to help remedy the situation. Towering over the youngster, the gentle giant coaxed him away from the grip of his mother and mounted him on the horse. The noise stopped.
“As soon as he sat on the horse, he didn’t say anything and was all smiles,” Coyle said. “It was crazy and awesome to see that.”
Coyle walked the now calmed toddler and his new horse around the ranch. Coyle, of course, stayed quiet, letting the horse work its magic on the little guy.
Helping people has been engrained in Coyle for as long as he can remember. Constantly the butt of the seniors’ antics as a freshman on his high school varsity team, Coyle made a vow to himself: Never forget what that feeling of disparagement was like when he became a senior.
“I would come home upset after practice my freshman year after the seniors would do typical messing-around things to us,” Coyle recalled. “I remember telling my mom I was never going to do that as a senior.”
Not only did Coyle remember what it felt like three years prior to be a freshman, he reminded his entire senior class what it felt like to be a freshman. The team’s defensive MVP changed the entire culture of the locker room with a new policy.
“My senior year, I made sure there was no joking around at the expense of the freshmen. Period,” he said. “I hated it when I was a freshman. I’m just one of those guys that likes helping people.”
This theme of team continuity was already cemented within the Lehigh football program when he arrived at South Mountain as a freshman in 2011.
“When I got here, there was no messing around with the freshmen, which is something I loved,” Coyle said. “I guess the gentle giant’s good because I’m a bigger guy, but I keep my mouth shut. That’s what I try to instill in the younger guys, too – just do your job. We try to instill in them that losing isn’t OK here.”
From Starlight Ranch to the West Milford High School locker room to helping the first-year Hawks in Bethlehem, Coyle’s mission to help others is just getting started.
A sociology and social psychology major, Coyle wants to work in the government upon graduating from Lehigh in May.
“I knew I wanted to help people, so my dad suggested I should be a cop,” Coyle said.
Being a police officer is not Coyle’s style, however, as the tight end prefers to help people behind the scenes.
“My mom has always said I should be in the Secret Service, so I definitely want to get into the government – maybe homeland security,” he said.
That’s more like it.
When asked if the preference to work out of the spotlight in homeland security rather than be in the public eye as a cop, Coyle couldn’t help but laugh at the inevitable correlation between his lifestyle and his dream job.
“I’m not an angry guy,” Coyle innocently admitted. “I like to avoid confrontation.”
A police officer has to deal with too much of that, making the behind-the-scenes work of homeland security the perfect spot for Coyle. That way, Coyle can help people while continuing his never-ending quest to avoid the spotlight.
Saturday’s career-culminating matchup with Lafayette College will mark the last displays of Coyle’s football talent. You’ll have to look out closely for No. 44, not listen for him, as there likely won’t be much to hear from the “gentle giant.”