Senior standout signs to play football at Gardner-Webb
LEDGER – More big plays are still to come for Tyler McKinney.
The 6-foot 2-inch, 200-pound Mitchell High School senior will play college football at Division I Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs after he graduates in May.
McKinney made his decision official during a ceremonial signing Friday, Feb. 14, in the Mitchell gym in front of his family, coaches and friends.
McKinney was a standout receiver for four seasons on the Mitchell varsity football team. In 54 career varsity games, he caught 106 passes for 2,072 yards and 29 touchdowns, helping the Mountaineers go 47-9 during that stretch.
McKinney became a varsity contributor right away as a freshman, appearing in 14 games and racking up 215 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. He built on that success as a sophomore by catching 15 passes for 196 yards and four touchdowns.
McKinney’s most prolific season came as a junior when he caught 37 passes for 897 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished his career by catching a career-high 46 passes for 764 yards and 11 touchdowns this past season.
McKinney also played safety and returned kicks. As a defensive player, he registered 167 tackles, including six for a loss.
As a punt and kickoff returner, McKinney averaged 24.7 yards per return and ran two kicks back for touchdowns.
McKinney said after visiting Gardner-Webb, he felt at home.
“It was the first school I’d been to that I felt like I could call home,” he said. “The distance isn’t bad, and I’d already been accepted and would probably go there if I wasn’t able to play football anywhere.”
The Gardner-Webb coaches believe McKinney can help their team as a preferred walk-on.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs compete in the Big South Conference and are coming off a 3-9 finish in 2019.
The program hasn’t finished above .500 since going 7-5 in 2013, but new head coach Tre Lamb appears poised to guide the program into a new era.
Lamb was previously the offensive coordinator at Tennessee Tech and joined Gardner-Webb this past December.
McKinney said he’s looking forward to learning under the offensive-minded head coach and his staff.
“The new coaching staff is already doing great things,” McKinney said. “There’s always room to work for more playing time with a new staff.”
McKinney said he’s eager to begin making a name for himself at Gardner-Webb. He thanked the local community, his coaches and teammates for the many memories he’ll take with him to college.
“This community helped me in ways I didn’t think possible,” McKinney said. “I know I’ll get to keep playing on Saturdays, but there’s not much I wouldn’t give to have one more Friday night at Memorial Stadium.”