By Brandon Gann
AUBURN, Ala. - The average college student is someone between 18-22 years old, just figuring out and discovering what he or she wants to do in life. But Tyler Stovall is none of those things.
Originally from Hokes Bluff, Ala., Stovall played professional baseball for the Atlanta Braves organization right out of high school, but after five years in the minor leagues, he decided to come to Auburn, to play football and get a business marketing degree.
Now at age 27 and the oldest active player in the SEC, Stovall has embraced life as the old man on the Auburn campus.
Stovall actually chose Auburn almost a decade ago. “I had signed here previously to play baseball (in 2008), so I considered myself an Auburn man and just wanted to come back here and play football,” he says.
“My parents went to Auburn. My dad graduated from here with a civil engineering degree, and my sister Katie graduated from here. The Auburn Family was part of the whole thing for me to come back and getting that experience. There’s nothing like it,” he says.
That sense of family also applies to Stovall’s relationship with his teammates. He gets teased for being the team’s elder statesman, but it’s a role he embraces with enthusiasm.
“I enjoy getting to be the older guy on the team, getting to have some of the guys over for dinner with me and my wife Kristi,” Stovall says. “We just try to represent Auburn the right way and promote that family-oriented feel. I get the nickname ‘Papa Sto’ so I’m kind of the elder on the team, but it’s always fun because I get to interact with them. Because of my age, I get to have a role model type of relationship with them and promote good, fun healthy stuff to do.”
From a student standpoint, he also loves being a senior, but like many, the May graduate can’t help but marvel at how quickly time has gone by. “It’s great! It’s exciting and it’s kind of crazy to think that it went by as fast as it has, but it’s definitely an honor to be able to play five years at the SEC level,” he says. “Being a part of the team has been really fun for me.
“The biggest challenge is just the aspect of time. Being married, playing football and doing school academically, it gets tough, but if you can manage that, it makes it so much better. I never realized just how much the term student-athlete carries. There’s a privilege in that, but there’s also a lot of a work load on you when it comes to being a student-athlete. Student does come first, but you have to prepare on the football field just as much. It’s a grueling process, but it’s definitely worth it.
With his maturity, Stovall knows he has grown over the course of his time at Auburn.
“Even though I started a little older, I still feel like I’ve become more of a man here,” he says. “I’ve dedicated myself and understood what discipline is, and how it pays off. I feel like I can carry that over into my next phase of life.”
For goals for this season, Stovall is thinking beyond himself. The team’s holder, who sets up the ball for All-America kicker and two-time Lou Groza finalist Daniel Carlson, says, “My goal is to get Daniel the Lou Groza Award (for the nation’s best collegiate kicker). I hope he can top it off finally here in his senior year. I think he’s deserved it in previous years, but I hope we get that this year.
“I believe our team is very close,” he says. “I’ve been a part of five teams now, and I think this team’s a little different. It could be because I’ve come up with them, but I just see there is a closeness about this team.”
Imparting wisdom to those teammates is second nature to him, especially freshmen who are a decade younger. “Relax and be yourself. Don’t worry about too much outside of what you can control, because when it boils down to it, all that you can do is worry about what you can.”
Once college is done, Stovall has not made definite plans, but he may return to his first sporting love. “I would love to get into coaching baseball,” he says. “If not, I’ve got a business degree now, thanks to Auburn University, so no matter what it is, I hope to be successful.”
And Auburn will remain at the heart of that success. “Nothing beats a Saturday down here at Auburn – that and the Auburn Family. I think that’ll always be a big part of me.”
Brandon Gann was a student assistant with Auburn Athletics Communications during the spring semester.