This time a year ago, redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Benz was then-senior Alex Gillett’s backup for the Eastern Michigan University football team, but by season’s end he had cemented himself as the starter and enters the 2013 season as the starter under center for the Eagles.
“The transition was fairly easy,” Benz said. “He [Alex] was a great player and made the switch to wide receiver. We managed to keep the offense kind of the same, but we had two different play calls because of our styles as quarterbacks.”
His two older brothers and father are his role models because of the bond they all built playing football in the backyard.
“I was always out at the backyard playing and wanting to be like my older brothers and my dad,” Benz said.
Benz grew up in Park Ridge, Ill., in an active sports family— his father, Al, and older brother, Erek, played football at Northwestern University and Northern Illinois University, respectively. His other older brother, Couri, currently plays baseball at Long Island University.
At Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Benz led his team to back-to-back Illinois High School Association Class 8-A state football championships in his junior and senior seasons.
Before choosing to come to Eastern for football and academics, Benz had considered other schools.
“Navy was looking at me to play at linebacker and the University of South Dakota wanted me to go out there and play quarterback,” Benz said.
What sold Benz on coming to EMU was how much he liked head coach Ron English and the way the program was being built.
“I liked what Coach E [Ron English] was doing in building the program and getting good foundation and beliefs,” Benz said. “I wanted to be a part of an up-and-coming program that I can help build into an elite team at some point.”
In his first year on campus, Benz realized that everyone, including himself faces adversity in terms of adjusting to a new lifestyle.
“I would say everyone faces adversity in college because you are away from home and living on your own,” Benz said.
He is on track to graduate in April with a degree in finance and wants to play on that field if a career in the National Football League does not come to fruition.
“I would like to go back to Chicago once I am done with football and hope to find a job in the area,” Benz said.
Benz’s big moment as a member of the football team came last season in his first career start at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., against the Michigan State Spartans.
“I was nervous at first being in a Big Ten stadium, but once the game got going, all of the butterflies were gone and I was out there playing football,” Benz said.
When getting up early out of his bed each morning, Benz likes to turn on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to catch up on any highlights that he missed the night before and also enjoys watching the television show “Entourage”.
Benz is a fan of comedic movies and sports films such as, “Dumb and Dumber”, “Billy Madison” and “Remember the Titans.”
When it comes to food, Benz does not shy away from a lot of items, but if he had to pick his favorite, it would be grilled chicken.
Off the field, Benz has been successful, as well. He was an All-Mid-American Conference academic honorable mention last season.
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter @EasternEchoGeno.