After years of attending schools like Lighthouse Christian and Faith Heritage, Collierville transplant Tyler Denson was about to step into the “Big League.”
After his parents Chris and Diane decided to make the move to Flag City, Tyler adjustment to Millington was a steady process. Then it was time for his freshman year and for him to walk the halls of Millington Central High School.
When it was all done, Tyler left MCHS with a 3.8 grade point average, Hall of Fame selection, several awards, captain of three sports and now the latest achieve of being the 2017 Millington Star Male Athlete of the Year presented by Dagen’s Trophies and Awards.
“Very honored to get this,” he said. “But first of all I have thank everybody who helped get me here. Especially my Dad who has pushed me through all of this. I came from this private school in eighth grade to the ninth grade year I was at Millington.
“It was a fresh start,” Tyler added. “I had never played football or wrestled before. I played soccer and baseball. Freshman year I actually played baseball and then moved over to soccer to play with my brothers Carlos and Dalton. Carlos actually set the school record for goals his senior year.”
Right by his brother’s side helping him set the record was Tyler. He enjoyed sharing the field with Carlos and Dalton giving their parents a special sight.
Soccer turned out to be a four-year sport Tyler. He was a member of the Millington Trojans’ football and wrestling teams that whole time as well.
His winter sport of wrestling helped him form a bond with his Head Coach William Richardson.
“I especially wanted to thank Coach Richardson who believes in me,” Tyler said. “He believes to this day I should be a State champion wrestler whole heartedly. I want to thank all of my football coaches who have pushed me through and taught me. I didn’t know anything about football.
“Then becoming the captain of all three of those sports is a huge honor and privilege,” he continued. “I couldn’t have done it without any of them. I thank God for the ability to even play sports — to have the health. There are so many kids who don’ts even have that opportunity. I’m incredibly blessed.”
Denson realized the gift of playing sports during his sophomore campaign. He spent most of the year gingerly walking the campus in a body brace because he damaged his L-4 vertebrae in two places.
Denson entered the football season seeking a spot anywhere on the field. He battled through practices with pain thinking it was just a muscle injury to his back.
With one season down, the then 10th grader made his way over to wrestling to start practices. It was their when he locked up with a teammate the pain increased.
“I played the whole football season with a broken back,” he recalled. “I thought it was just muscle. First day of wrestling practice hurt it. And couldn’t walk for a week.Then I had to go through 4 to 6 months of rehab. I missed the first month of soccer season and then came back.
“I was just thankful I could play sports again,” Tyler added. “If it had been any worse, I would have to had to have two screws put in on the side. And I wouldn’t have been able to play sports again.”
Full of gratitude, Denson took full advantage of his final two years of high school eligibility. Playing all three sports to his fullest, he developed a deep love for the mat.
“It ended up with wrestling being my favorite,” he said. “But it’s so close that it is hard to tell. I love all of them.”
All three sports have allowed Denson to form bonds with his teammates. One Trojan in the Denson brotherhood is Chris Sanders. He was a senior during Denson’s freshman year of football.
Sanders was a standout wide receiver wearing the No. 15. Sanders made time to reach out to the young Denson and show him what true leadership was.
As a parting gift, Sanders left Denson the No. 15. That became part of the Denson trademark in all sports.
Denson didn’t need a number for wrestling. And the leadership qualities he learned in football translated into the ultimate individual sport.
Football taught me how to be a teammate and leadership,” he said. “Football taught me how to push others around me and get everybody to give their all. It takes 11 men on the field to get better. It’s not just one person.
“Wrestling taught me hard work,” Tyler continued. “It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has definitely scrupled me into the guy I’m going to be throughout life. It teaches you to push hard no matter what. After wrestling, everything else seems to be quite easy.”
Learning from Richardson and staff, Denson also gained knowledge from teammates like Luke Walker, Jaxon Cook, Charles Rockiemore and Sean Srock.
Once Denson was finished grappling, he put on his running cleats under the direction of coaches Larry Dagen and William Carter.
“Soccer was different for everything else,” Tyler said. “It was real aggressive. It was like training for a fight. Wrestling you’re right there in a circle. Soccer is consistent running. It’s an whole different conditioning from wrestling. I love soccer. It’s fun to play. It was my break. Enjoyed playing out there. And I got to play with both my brothers.”
Tyler said years of dedication and the lessons from family and friends helped him enter his senior year ready for one more marathon. But having Richardson, Carter and Millington Head Football Coach Chris Michael name him captain was a surprising privilege.
“I do have a natural gift of leadership,” he acknowledged. “I’m not naturally athletic at all. I had to work for everything. I started off freshman and sophomore year, varsity I didn’t even play my sophomore year for football. I set the bench. Soccer and wrestling were different. I was pretty good at wrestling because I worked so hard.
“I’m not naturally gifted at it,” Denson added. “I got be a leaders because I focused on everybody else around me and not myself. I wanted those around me to do better and play to the best of their ability.”
Denson’s impact on his teammates was evident. During one of the five games he missed during the football season, the Trojan were struggling on defense without their defensive back/linebacker.
As the Kingsbury Falcons hung around with the Trojans in Melrose Stadium, one of the underclassmen shouted out “We need Tyler out there.”
“It feels incredibly humbling,” he said. “It feels good when somebody says they need you out there. But it’s frustrating at the same time because you’re not out there. I had torn ligaments in my ankle and missed half of the season.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be captain because there are guys who were better than me like D’Monte Kemp, Chance Taylor, Sam Stanifer all deserved for sure,” Denson added. “So when somebody says something like that, it’s very humbling.”
His impact was felt across three sports at Millington. And now he will be a part of a legacy including past Athlete of the Year winners like Buck Wakefield, Connor Alexander, Ricky Foster and current NFL player Alan Cross.
“I really want to leave a legacy at Millington,” Denson said. “I want others to know you can do whatever you want to do. I came in my freshman year 115 pounds, 5’7. I had to wrestle an upper weight class because I had a bad reading on my hydration taste. I kept working through it and had to push myself year around.
“I worked with people who were a lot better than me who whipped my butt,” he concluded. “I stepped on the football field with a lot of people who were faster than me and I couldn’t hold them. But I would get mad and try again. I get trucked and get up and say let’s go again. Leaving my legacy at Millington was important to me. It was who I was and how hard I worked. But it wasn’t just me. It inspired and motivated me. That’s what I wanted to do is inspired people.”
2006 Buck Wakefield Munford
2007 Joe Glass Brighton
2008 Mario Justice Millington
2009 Tausean Holmes Millington
2010 Demetre Jones Millington
2011 Alan Cross Millington
2012 Ricky Foster Brighton
2013 Antonio Webber Millington
2014 Connor Alexander TRA
2015 Logan Stewart TRA
2016 Kip Fleming Millington