Baseball preview: You don’t know Bo, unless you’re Jackson (Tyner)
Jackson Tyner is a senior at Rice with five seasons of Division I sports experience: three years as a quarterback for football and two years as a pitcher for baseball.
During his junior year, Tyner played football in the fall season and baseball in the spring season.
“Last spring was definitely the hardest [to balance] because I would have football practice in the morning and baseball practice in the afternoon,” Tyner said. “There was no time for anything else. I woke up at 6 a.m. and had classes all day. I wouldn’t get out of baseball until 7 p.m. Now I am putting more time toward improving my GPA since I am about to graduate.”
Tyner excelled as an all-district basketball and football player and as a state qualifier in discus at Edgewood High School in Edgewood, Texas before coming to Rice. Tyner said he enjoyed the rigor of playing four sports in high school, including baseball.
“[Edgewood] was a small school, so [our coaches] asked everyone to play as much as they could,” Tyner said. “I actually didn’t play baseball during my sixth through eighth grade years. My freshman year, my best friend begged me to come out and play baseball, so I did. I didn’t play my sophomore year, but I picked it back up my junior and senior years.”
Tyner was recruited to Rice by former football Head Coach David Bailiff and was named one of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football top 30 quarterbacks. In the midst of his freshman season at Rice, Tyner suffered a back injury which forced him to redshirt. For Bo Jackson, a two-sport star in college and in the pros, a hip injury proved terminal. But Tyner recovered.
“Thankfully, I have healed it 100 percent,” Tyner said.
Tyner threw for 1,048 yards and four touchdowns in 16 appearances for football. Prior to his junior year, Rice dismissed Bailiff and welcomed Mike Bloomgren as its new Head Coach; according to Tyner, an honest conversation took place between himself and Bloomgren, which resulted in Tyner honing his attention toward baseball.
“They basically told me my best opportunity to play, since they wanted the best thing for me, and reach my peak was to go [play] somewhere else,” Tyner said. “But I hold no hard feelings and I respect the honesty I was handed. I am excited to play baseball at Rice and see what the next chapter holds.”
Tyner said he was encouraged to play for Rice baseball by former Owls’ Assistant Coach Clay Van Hook during a Houston tournament. Hook left Rice in 2017 to coach at the University of Oklahoma, but former Owls Skipper Wayne Graham extended Hook’s offer to Tyner.
In three relief innings across five outings last season, Tyner struck out two batters, walked two batters and allowed two earned runs. But Tyner said the interchange from Graham to new head coachMatt Bragga may present a new opportunity for appearances.
“Football, baseball, kind of the same thing, both teams had a down year,” Tyner said. “Anytime you have a down year and decide to bring in new staff, a new coach, you feel that energy to mix things up. The changes are similar in that both [Bloomgren and Bragga] are high energy, goal-oriented and always want what is best for the team.”
Upon suggesting that his arm talent is a novelty given a two-year absence from pitching, Tyner said that while freshness is valuable, his inexperience also stands him “behind the eight-ball” compared to his teammates who are lifelong baseball players. According to Tyner, pitch development is a time-consuming process.
“Last year, my fastball would cut really hard and it was hard to control,” Tyner said. “So I spent most of my time last year straightening out my fastball and also being able to give it a little cut — so I was able to develop essentially two new pitches. I have also been working on a changeup, because pitching off-speed is important.”
“The biggest thing for me right now is to hit spots and pitch accurately. I am focusing on being efficient with my outs.”
One thing which translates from football to baseball, according to Tyner, is a dominating mentality.
“My mindset in any sport I play in is to attack,” Tyner said. “Do everything you can for your team and give your best effort no matter what. I am going to dominate this pitch, this play, and do everything I can to win on this pitch or this play. It’s kind of a pitch-by-pitch, snap-by-snap mindset.”
Since Tyner retains one year of eligibility due to his medical redshirt, he will have an opportunity to graduate from Rice and transfer to play an additional year of football at another university.
Correction Feb. 17: There are other athletes who compete in two sports at Rice, such as Marissa Topolski, who both plays soccer and runs track. Tyner is not the only dual-sport athlete.
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