The Michigan State football program had not brought in a recruit from Texas since 2007.
In the span of two weeks this July, two Texans committed to MSU.
Enticed by the â€œNo Fly Zone,â€ West Mesquite cornerback Josh Butler decided on MSU first, on July 21.
Tyler Higby, a standout offensive lineman from Houston, Texas announced his decision to become a Spartan just ten days later, convinced by the nature of the MSU coaching staff and the homey feeling of East Lansing.
Soon after Higby became the latest top recruit to choose MSU, Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. spoke with both Higby and his coach at Kinkaid School, Nathan Larned, on Spartan Nation Radio.
As the saying goes, â€œEverything is bigger in Texas.â€ Tyler Higby is no exception. The 6â€™5, 285 pound prospect has been the biggest player on the field for much of his life. His size would bring great joy to any offensive line coach.
But itâ€™s Higbyâ€™s athleticism that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Higby actually played quarterback until high school, when Larned switched him to offensive line.
â€œHe was always a great athlete. He just grew out of the position,â€ Larned said.
Since making the transition nearly three years ago, Higby has developed into a talented lineman with incredible ability. Larned has been impressed with Higbyâ€™s growth.
â€œTyler has amazing feet and heâ€™s got very quick hands, he can punch and reload very quickly, and heâ€™s got big, wide arms,â€ Larned said. â€œNaturally, heâ€™s still got to work in a lot of areas because heâ€™s a high school senior and heâ€™s not in the Big Ten yet. Heâ€™s an amazing pass protector. In our league, he gets kind of bored with it from time to time, but I see him work against our rival teams, I have yet to see him get beat.â€
College coaches quickly took notice of Higbyâ€™s unique skillset. In the summer of his junior year, Higby received his first scholarship offer â€“ from LSU.
â€œI figured, â€˜If LSU can offer, why canâ€™t I go anywhere else?â€™â€
Higby got his fair share of offers, as MSU, Miami, TCU, and Louisville all followed suit and many more!
â€œAt the beginning of the process, when schools started showing interest, I asked Tyler if any school in the country offered him, â€˜Where would you be interested in going?â€ Larned said. â€œHe mentioned USC because he had a cousin who went there and took him to games, so he fell in love with the place when he was young. And then Michigan State.â€
Despite the distance, Higby never wrote off MSU as an option. â€œIâ€™ve always kind of liked Michigan State because of the family I have up there.â€
But while having extended family nearby is nice, thatâ€™s not enough of a reason to choose a school thatâ€™s located nearly 1,300 miles away. So how did he decide on MSU?
First, Higby felt at home when he visited East Lansing.
â€œOn the tour, it was my mom, my great uncle, one of our good family friends, and me. We all went down into Coach Dantonioâ€™s office,â€ Higby explained. â€œHe walked in with a big smile on his faceâ€¦I could tell that he was excited that we were there. He sat down and was open with us, talking about what we thought of the school and the campus and the people there. I could tell heâ€™s a really good guy, a people person, and he cares a lot about people.â€
Michigan State also offers Higbyâ€™s major of choice: communications. Higby dreams of becoming a broadcaster someday. He will have plenty of examples to look up to, as MSU has produced several award-winning broadcasters, such as Jemele Hill of ESPN and Sheri Jones of WLNS Lansing.
The decision still wasnâ€™t easy for Higby.
â€œMichigan State was on my mind ever since I got back home but I had gone to LSUâ€™s day camp in the past week… I was thinking it was going to take a long time to really decide where I wanted to go, but last night talking with my parents, it really hit me and it felt right.â€
The Spartan coaching staff was ecstatic to hear the happy news.
â€œI called Coach [Mark] Staten first because I call him about once a week, so it was just a weekly checkup,â€ Higby said. â€œI called him, and he started yelling and screaming. He was really excited: he told me that he had goose bumps. He told Coach Dantonio that I wanted to talk to him, so I called Coach Dantonio. I could tell he was really excited. He wasnâ€™t yelling and screaming like Coach Staten, but he was really happy.â€
Higby currently sees playing time as an interior lineman at Kinkaid, but the Spartan coaching staff will likely line up the youngster on the outside.
â€œCoach Staten sees me at tackle,â€ Higby said. â€œI asked him last night when I called him. I said, â€˜What position do you see me playing?â€™ He said, â€˜Tackle. Youâ€™re big and athletic, you can play the tackle position, and we need tackles.â€™â€
Higby has plenty to do before he steps foot in East Lansing in August of next year. As he readily admits, his run blocking needs some work. Larned also adds that the new Spartan could use some more strength.
There is, however, one area in which Higby doesnâ€™t need any work â€“ his character.
â€œTyler is an extremely high character kid. In all honesty, you have to be that way to go to the Kincaid School here in Houston,â€ Larned said. â€œItâ€™s something we look for in kids, itâ€™s the number one we look for is character. Tyler has been here since he was in kindergarten. His mom has worked here for over 20 years as an educator. He is a very kind-hearted, gentle-spirited person who is easy to get along with.
â€œWhat Iâ€™ve always liked about him is that he can laugh at himself when he makes a mistake. Thatâ€™s something I look for. Weâ€™re all human and weâ€™re all going to make mistakes and some people donâ€™t understand that. But Tyler is one of those guys who gets it and is willing to laugh at himself, and heâ€™s just a person who people enjoy being around.â€
Once Higby enrolls at Michigan State, the Spartan Nation will certainly enjoy having him around, too. This smart young offensive lineman has the potential to do great things in East Lansing.