Tyler King never thought this day would come.
After a pair of ACL injuries took him away from football, King figured his chances of being a collegiate athlete were over. Forced to rebuild, he took up swimming as a junior, using the sport as a competitive outlet as well as a form of therapy and rehabilitation.
But it turned into much more and, on Wednesday, the Copperas Cove senior reached an unexpected conclusion to the end of his long and painful journey by inking a letter of intent to swim at McMurry University during a joint signing ceremony at Bulldawg Gymnasium.
“I never expected to be where I’m at,” King said. “The hard work paid off.”
King originally injured his knee as a sophomore during hitting drills prior to a junior varsity game at Southlake Carroll. Nine months later, while serving as Copperas Cove’s school mascot, he stepped into a pothole, reinjuring the same knee.
It was evident he had to move on.
“It stuck me in the water,” King said. “I was a diver beforehand, so I understood what it was like to be in the water and that I could enjoy it.”
Joining King during the ceremony were Bulldawgs football players Bashar Saunders, who committed to Texas Lutheran, Jireh Craig and Danarius Brisbon, who each signed with Howard Payne, and Lady Bulldawgs standout volleyball player Bryaunea Hall.
Like King, Hall, who signed to play for Incarnate Word, was introduced to her respective sport later than most, but after joining Copperas Cove’s team as a sophomore, she quickly adapted.
“To sign a Division I scholarship for a sport she has only played three years is phenomenal,” Lady Bulldawgs head coach Cari Lowery said. “It is unheard of. She has not played club ball, and she has never gone to a volleyball camp. … The sky truly is the limit for her.”
Over the past two seasons, the middle blocker helped Copperas Cove earn consecutive District 8-5A championships, receiving all-district most valuable hitter honors and landing on the Texas Sports Writers Association’s All-State Team as a senior.
Saunders also was praised for his ability to acclimate after arriving to Copperas Cove from Philadelphia as a junior.
“Usually, people who come in late in their careers never play for us,” Bulldawgs defensive coordinator Reb Brock said. “I’ve been here 15 years, and I’ve only seen a handful of people who got here after their sophomore year ever play for us because they were so far behind physically.”
Following a season on the junior varsity roster, Saunders produced a strong showing as a senior, recording 47 solo tackles, breaking up five passes and producing a team-high four interceptions.
While signing his letter of intent was a thrill, the cornerback was equally excited for his classmates.
“We all expect each other to go places,” Saunders said. “I’m proud of everybody. The fact that everybody is going to college is good.”
Some are even taking the next step together.
After spending the past several seasons playing alongside one another for the Bulldawgs defense, Brisbon and Craig will both continue their careers at Howard Payne.
“We talk about it every day,” Craig said. “We keeping telling each other that this is our year, and this is our time. We’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
Both played multiple positions throughout their senior seasons with Brisbon producing 35 total tackles (20 solo) and Craig finishing the year with 30 solo tackles, assisting on five others, with a pair of sacks and 11 tackles for a loss.
“We have to go represent Copperas Cove,” Brisbon said laughing. “It is going to help to know there is somebody else from the same area I’m from.”