BRIDGEWATER — Having Tyler Beiler on his track team, Bridgewater College coach Shane Stevens said, is like owning a Ferrari.
“You try to do as little as you can to mess up a good thing,” Stevens said. “It’s like, OK, here’s a Ferrari. I’ve got to be careful about, where do I put the gas in it? How do you start the thing up?’”
Another comparison might be a fine wine that gets better with age. A couple of NFL pre-seasons can have that effect on someone’s speed.
Beiler hasn’t donned a BC jersey of any kind since 2010, when he finished a decorated football career in which he was a Division III All-American and set the all-time school record for career receiving yards (3,022). More than two years and three NFL tryouts later, at age 24, Beiler is an Eagle once more – as a sprinter.
“I figured, why not?” said Beiler, who will report to training camp for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League this summer. “Try to get myself another [Old Dominion Athletic Conference] ring while I’m here. It also goes along with my training; it helps my speed, it helps my flexibility.”
His all-star football career overshadowed a pretty good college track résumé, too. A runner since middle school, Beiler won the 100-meter dash as a junior at the 2010 ODAC meet with a time of 10.85 seconds. But after his final football season the following fall, Beiler put away his track shoes – along with his academic pursuits – for his final semester, choosing instead to focus on training for professional football near his hometown of Ronks, Pa.
When the NFL didn’t work out – he was cut by his third NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the final week of the 2012 preseason – Beiler returned to BC and coached the Eagles’ receivers. While he was here, he figured it was a good time to finish up his degree in business management before moving to Toronto.
And while he was doing all that…
“In passing somewhere along the line, it was kind of like, ‘Hey, we know you’re coming back, would you be interested in running another year?’” Stevens said. “He said, ‘That’s great.’”
Beiler said he liked the idea of adding track to his football training routine, which includes four days of lifting, two days of yoga, two morning runs with BC’s football team and a couple sessions of route-running and pass-catching per week. With all that, plus finishing up his final 16 credits at BC, Beiler turns up at track practice about twice per week – and that’s fine with Stevens.
“My big thing is to make it less of an inconvenience for him, because I know that he’s got things lined up once he gets outside of college,” Stevens said.
But, Stevens added, “It’s not like I’m trying to get him to come out to run or saying, ‘Hey, Come on.’ I don’t have to try to throw something out in front of him to try to lure him out. He’s someone who enjoys doing it.”
He’s already run some indoor races, including the ODAC indoor meet, where he finished third in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.08 seconds. He finished behind sophomore Jacob Wright – the football team’s starting running back – who finished second at 7.02.
“As soon as Coach told me [Beiler was running track this season], I was like, ‘What?’” said Wright, noting that he took “a little bit” of pride in nipping Beiler in the 60. “I’m basically playing with an NFL player. It’s awesome. Awesome.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Beiler’s best races may be yet to come – he noted that he “left a little out there” in the indoor race. Two years ago, he clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds at James Madison’s pro day.
When asked if he’s lost a step since then, Beiler responded, “I’d like to think I’ve gained a step.”
“I feel like I’m just as fast or faster and more explosive and stronger than I was,” Beiler said, “and that was two years ago.”
He’ll run his first outdoor race on the weekend of April 19-20 at the ODAC championship meet at Washington & Lee University in Lexington. He’ll compete in the 100-meter dash and in the 4x100-meter relay, teaming with three football players: Wright, senior cornerback Keith Lance and junior safety Daryus Beale.
“I think the [relay] kids have a good chance to go to the national championship – they can run at the national level with a lot of teams,” Stevens said.
Wright said that, even though Beiler’s older, he’s still just one of the guys. He clearly recognizes that he’s getting an opportunity that many would kill for – a second chance at being in college.
Sure, Beiler says, he sometimes feels significantly older or more mature than his peers. Sometimes, he admits, there’s a noticeable age gap when he interacts with his track teammates. But in general, he’s relishing being a college student again.
“I definitely look at my schoolwork differently, take it a little bit more seriously now,” he said. “I notice I’m a little more focused and more involved with getting my work done, and still focused on my workouts and what not.”
As for his future in football, Beiler is, as always, optimistic. He said he’s spoken with Ike Charleton, BC’s tight ends coach last season who played defensive back in both the NFL and CFL, who told Beiler that the CFL is “a wide receiver’s dream” because it’s a pass-heavy league. Beiler cited current Indianapolis Colts starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman as following nearly an identical path to the NFL – Freeman went to Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor, was cut a couple of times by NFL teams, went on to become an assistant coach at his alma mater and finally landed in the CFL. After three years there, Freeman caught on with the Colts.
“Hopefully, I get the chance I deserve,” said Beiler, noting that he’ll make about $60,000 a year in his two-year deal with the Argonauts. “I feel like I should have made a few NFL rosters, but that didn’t happen unfortunately. So I’ve got the same attitude. I’m just ready to work and show ’em what I got.”
Until then, this Ferrari will show off his wheels at BC.
“He’s gotten a lot of good training over the last couple years from a lot of professional involvement,” Stevens said. “I think he’s a lot more seasoned. He’s been trained by the best. …And he’s put the time in, there’s no doubt about it.”
© Copyright 2002-2013 by Daily News-Record - All Rights Reserved