Tyler Gustafson helps Ship soar to new heights
Shippensburg knew this was coming.
Even before Tyler Gustafson was the starting quarterback for the Greyhound football team, Shippensburg knew this was coming.
"We had talked about the spread offense in seasons prior, but our personnel just matched up so well with the Wing-T prior to this year," Gustafson said. "In my 10th-grade year, when Seth (Frey) was still (quarterback), with Dylan (Herb), Storm (Fridinger), William (Burt), we incorporated a little bit of shotgun and gave hints of what was to come."
This season, those subtle hints weren't so subtle anymore. Gustafson threw for 1,842 yards and 17 touchdowns this year alone, and led the Greyhounds to a berth in the District 3 Class AAA playoffs. He holds records for single-game passing yards and career completions, and he is the Public Opinion Football Player of the Year.
"When we came into my junior year, we struggled in the beginning half of the season," Gustafson said. "We were trying to put a square block in a circular hole; it just wasn't working. We decided to make a change, and we had the personnel to do it."
Alongside Gustafson, Ship knew it had Wade Mills and Cody Gustafson on the horizon -- they finished as the area's top two receivers.
But the Hounds still had a progression to make this season in order for it to be so successful.
"To begin the season, we threw a lot. We had to find a balance; we were pass happy, which was OK for some of us," Tyler Gustafson said with a laugh. "But it wasn't a recipe to win games. We had to keep people on their toes and have an offense that complemented each other. To be able to come into the system that we did and be as successful as we were, it was nice."
Gustafson broke the school's single-game record for passing yards last year against Greencastle, when he threw for 338 yards, and holds the all-time completions record with 217. He finished his career with the Greyhounds second all-time in passing yards with 3,036.
"To go to this (new system) this year was a big risk for us," Shippensburg coach Eric Foust said. "What we got by trying to do that was we got ourselves much more balanced than we've ever been. I think a lot of that goes with taking the chance on Tyler and that crew to spread the ball more."
Not only did Gustafson provide a strong quarterback on the field, he provided the Greyhounds with a strong leader off the field.
His nickname is "The President," and for good reason.
"My eighth-grade social studies teacher, Mrs. (Nancy) Bender, was the one who prompted me to run for (class president)," said Gustafson, who served as the student body president in ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grades. "I'm very political - not politically correct; that's not what I shoot for. But I express a lot of Republican views, so they call me the President."
Foust said, "Tyler is a good leader to these kids. We have a young offensive line, and he treated the linemen well. He even cooked them dinner sometimes. He was kind of quirky in some of the things he did, but he handled a lot of things well. He was fun to have around."
Having that off-the-field leadership ability helped Gustafson to grow as a leader on the football field as well.
"At the beginning of my career, I wore my emotions on my sleeve more," Gustafson said. "As I grew up, I've kept my emotions more in check. I try to remain a calm and steady figure, but I still do go nuts whenever we score a touchdown."
That's understandable, though, as Gustafson has a clear passion for football. He comes from a football family, and still can't resist the allure of the Friday night lights.
"As a quarterback, I'm very thankful that God has given me the ability and opportunity to play," Gustafson said. "The Friday night aura definitely plays a role. As a kid, I was a ball boy, a water boy; I even charted plays, so Friday was The Day. To be able to play on Friday nights, it's awesome."
Tyler Gustafson file
Size: 6-foot-2, 180 pounds
Parents: Kevin and Megan Gustafson
Other interests: Tyler is very interested in politics. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Honor Society; he is a member of the student council and is a student representative to the school board and Chamber of Commerce.
Surprising fact: He plans to vote for Ben Carson in the presidential election.
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Athletes most admired: Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger
Three people he'd like to have dinner with: His parents, Ronald Reagan and Roethlisberger
Statistics: Gustafson helped re-shape Shippensburg's offense this year by implementing a more spread formation ... He finished with 1,842 passing yards and was only the second Greyhound quarterback in history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in his career ... In 2015, he threw for 17 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions, and had a completion percentage of 54.9 percent.