Southern Arkansas University’s quarterback Tyler Sykora is an intimidating figure on the football field, but when not on the gridiron he is quick to flash a smile and share his positive attitude and outlook on life.
Pre-season visits from NFL scouts to watch Sykora ensured he is sharp and ready for this season.
Sykora attributes the Muleriders’ preseason hype to their breakaway 2012 season with an 8-2 record and a trip to the Heart of Texas Bowl game. But he said they will have to work and fight to achieve their goal of a conference championship and a chance at the playoffs.
Sykora’s personal goals run well beyond this season.
“I know that God has given me football for a reason, and I want to glorify Him as much as I can,” said Sykora. “I want to be the best player I can be so that He gets the glory and honor. If He does give me a future with the NFL, then I will play as long as He allows and try and use the platform He has given me to the fullest.”
Sykora admits he has come a long way athletically from the days when he just loved watching the ball spiral through the air while playing catch with his brother Zach in the backyard at Hot Springs Village. He joked that pee-wee football was fun because he was bigger than all the other kids, but it became less fun when the other kids grew.
At 6’6” and 225 pounds of pure muscle, Sykora’s size has once again helped him enjoy the game more. As his stature has matured, as has his faith.
“I was raised in church and was your typical Christian kid whose parents drug him to church,” said Sykora. “God really changed me the summer before I came to SAU. I was a counselor at a Fellowship for Christian Athletes camp and I thought I was there to help the kids, but God actually had me there to change me. He showed me that I would be playing football for Him and His glory, and that I would be going into ministry as soon as football is over.”
Sykora explained that even through difficult times on and off the field, he sees opportunities to strengthen his faith. His redshirt freshman season was one good example.
“We were 1-9 and had a lot of adversity that year. In life, there is going to constantly be adversity. But regardless of the adversity and what this life brings, I know that I am not alone through any of it,” said Sykora.
He was referring to his divine partner, but as of July 20 of this year, Sykora has a life partner who shares his faith and life ambitions. His wife, Samantha, will be graduating in December with a Biology Pre-Med degree from Northwestern State University. Sykora said that they will be going into seminary together after his football journey is over.
Even though Sykora gives his all to the rigorous workout and football practice schedule, he already devotes his down time to his current ministry roles as the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his internship at the Association of Baptist Students. He also attends a college bible study at the First Baptist Church in Magnolia.
During down time this past summer, Sykora traveled to the Philippines with a Volunteer Student Missions basketball team. He had to promise his coaches and parents he would not actually play basketball during the trip, as they were worried he may get hurt. But he traveled with the VSM team to different universities sharing with the children the fundamentals of the game of basketball as well as the fundamentals of the faith-driven life.
Sykora has done the same in his own university community as he was a frequent traveler with the Muleriders in Magnolia. Sykora’s beaming smile made him a favorite among the children. The Muleriders in Magnolia effort earned the SAU Athletic Department the coveted NCAA Division II Award of Excellence for Community Engagement in 2012.
“Tyler is a young man that has really developed into a great quarterback. We are just glad to have him on our team,” said SAU football coach Bill Keopple. “He is as good a representative as you could have on your team, and off the field with as much community service as he does along with leading FCA on campus. That is the kind of players we want at SAU and have been recruiting for our team.”