PRINCETON, WV (WOAY) – Out of all of the area’s high school football teams, Princeton has made one of the most impressive turnarounds this season. From 2017-2019, the Tigers went 4-24. This year they finished 6-2, earning their first playoff appearance since 2015.
But even if they didn’t win a single game this season, one player completed a comeback few imagined possible.
Junior Tyler Dye comes from a soccer family. His mom Michelle coaches the girls team at Princeton. His sister Brittany plays midfield for WVU Tech. For all of his life, Tyler played center back. But before his sophomore year, he decided he wanted a change.
“I was getting tired of soccer,” Tyler said. “And then my parents were like, ‘You should try football.’ So during the offseason of my freshman year, I decided to come to weightlifting here and then I just decided to play football instead of soccer.”
While there were a few bumps along the road, Tyler transitioned to football quicker than expected. Just a few months after picking up the sport, Tyler shot up the depth chart. Ahead of the season opener against Bluefield, Tyler was made the starting left tackle.
But on the very first play of the game, everything Tyler worked for came crashing down.
“I was on kick return and I barely got hit,” Tyler said. “I just landed on it weird. It was a freak accident.”
Tyler had suffered an avulsion fracture of the tibial tuberosity, an extremely rare yet catastrophic knee injury.
After having X-rays done, one physician’s assistant told him that he would probably never run again, let alone play sports.
Once the surgery was done began a long road to recovery. He was out of school for nine weeks and had to pushed around on a wheelchair. After months of grueling physical therapy that included re-learning how to walk without crutches, Tyler had to have another knee surgery in May.
But after the second surgery, the unthinkable happened. His pain started to go away. Slowly, he was able to return to the weight room and regain his mobility. At one point, Tyler wasn’t sure if he’d ever run again. Now he wanted to give football one more try.
His coaches were extremely hesitant at first, but with the help of a knee brace, Tyler gained more confidence. Eventually, he returned to the field and regained the starting left tackle job just one year removed from the injury.
Tyler has started every game for Princeton this year, helping protect quarterback Grant Cochran’s blindside. Cochran leads all area passers in yards and without Tyler, he doesn’t think that would have been possible.
Princeton and Tyler will look to continue their magical season with a win over Wheeling Park in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday (game subject to cancellation).