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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Ty’s Story: Charleston Great Ty Storey Returns to Razorback Stadium to Play His Former Team, Part 4

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Note to Readers: This is part four of a five part series on Ty Storey’s return to Fayetteville to play against his former team as quarterback of Western Kentucky University. The series will conclude on November 10, the day after the Razorbacks game with Western Kentucky. The Resident Press would like to thank Ty Storey, Steve Cox, the University of Arkansas, University of Tulsa, Western Kentucky University, and others for making this series possible.

It’s game day, and Ty Storey and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers come to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to play the Arkansas Razorbacks. For Ty Storey, he will have the unique experience today of having played in the stadium for the Razorbacks, but today, Ty will enter the field from the visitors’ locker room.

From my days as a student trainer at Arkansas, I can share with our readers what Ty is doing this morning as the events lead up to game time.

Every aspect of college game day is a well-organized and choreographed event. For the 11 a.m. kickoff, Ty and his teammates will awaken around 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. The team will have breakfast in a meeting room at the hotel around 7 a.m. The head coach may address the team for a few minutes after the breakfast, and then it will be short meetings with players’ position coaches after breakfast. Some of the student trainers who traveled to Arkansas will go on to the stadium to finish getting their things organized and ready in the locker room, as well as on the sideline. Other trainers will remain at the hotel and tape ankles of some of the non-starters to save time at the stadium.

The team will board the bus, probably around 9:00 a.m. to make the trip to the stadium. The team will arrive around 9:15 a.m. The players will dress, and the trainers will finish taping. And then, a few quiet minutes, perhaps some final instructions from the coaches, and the team will be ready to take the field for warm-up at 10 a.m.

After warm-up, the players will return to the locker room for final preparations, adjustments, and instructions from the coaches. And then, after four years at Arkansas, and after all of the adversity, and all of the hard work on the road back he has invested in the past 11 months, Ty Storey will take the field at Razorback Stadium as a member of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

As a player, coach, or trainer, you know this routine like the back of your hand, and I am sure Ty is certainly no different. But this time, this is just not any football game to Ty Storey.

I can’t help but to think of one of my many conversations with Steve Cox. He mentioned in our conversations that it was a very unique and strange feeling taking the field at Arkansas as part of the visiting team and from the visitors’ locker room.

Ty was heavily recruited by several Power Five schools, yet he chose Arkansas at a time when the Razorbacks football program was not very good. When I asked Ty why he chose Arkansas, he said, “It was my home state. It was hard to turn that down when they call you and want you to come play for them. At that point it was Coach B (Bret Bielema, head football coach) and Coach Chaney (Jim Chaney, offensive coordinator) recruiting me pretty hard. They came down to Charleston quite a bit and just seeing how much love from that program and growing up right there, an hour away, and an hour for the parents and grand parents, and everything else, it was hard to turn that down.”

Ty committed to Arkansas as an early enrollee in January of his senior year at Charleston High School. He gave up his high school basketball and baseball senior year, as well as all of the senior activities, such as his prom, to start college early. “It was the plan from the beginning to hopefully graduate early (from high school) and move on to what was next. So, that was the plan at the time. I mean, looking back, obviously, I missed basketball season, baseball season, and hanging out with my friends, but I still to this day stay in close contact with them, my high school friends. It was just the way it had to be done, and, I mean, you can’t look back and regret it now.”

Ty’s decision to leave high school early and enroll at the University of Arkansas in January was as much as an academic decision as it was getting a head start on playing for the Razorbacks. “Getting an extra spring practice under my belt and getting up there around all of my new teammates and everything else was kind of what we needed to do.”

Ty played four years at Arkansas and gave the Razorbacks everything he had. He played behind some bad offensive lines and at times, took beatings from opposing SEC teams’ defensive fronts. After three years, a coaching change was made at Arkansas. Ty played in an alternating role at quarterback under their new head football coach for one year. After that year, it became apparent that new coach Chad Morris was interested in bringing in transfer quarterbacks, and Ty may not be in his plans for his last year of eligibility. Ty reflected on that time. “It’s just kind of how it had to be. It’s nothing against my old teammates. I love my old teammates and I still stay in contact with them today. They’re a great bunch of guys, great players, but it just didn’t work out. That’s sometimes how it goes in life. Even when you give it your all. Everybody’s trying their hardest, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. At that point it wasn’t working out. I had conversations with Coach Morris and asked him what direction they were going in, and to see if I was in their plans, knowing that there was maybe different plans going on, and if I needed to start looking around (for other schools to transfer to play). It was that Christmas break (December 2018) I asked Coach Morris, and I understood why they were doing what they were doing, we were not a very good football team. So, they were trying to get everybody in and get new players. It was to that point, we had a good relationship, I just wanted him to be up front with me, if they were looking to go in a different direction (at quarterback). If they were looking for any more people (at quarterback) just to let me know. They (Arkansas coaches) were always honest with me about it, so, it was alright. Sometimes life puts you in different paths, and I’m just happy to be here at Western.”

Ty transferred to Western Kentucky University, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. If you have never had the opportunity to go to Bowling Green or the surrounding regions of Kentucky, it is a beautiful setting and a great place for a student to go to school. I asked Ty why he chose WKU, and he said, “When I first got into the portal (NCAA transfer portal to seek new schools’ interests in Ty transferring to play football) I heard from a couple of teams, but Western always kind of stood out. Knowing the type of offense they have here, especially a couple of years ago, and then when I found out that the coach they just hired (Tyson Helton) was the coach from a couple of years ago that was calling the offense, just made it work out. So all the love they showed and knowing the success they’ve had out here, it’s pretty hard to turn down.”

According to the Western Kentucky football website, “Helton returned to WKU three years removed from the 2015 football season which ended with WKU’s final Associated Press ranking of 24- the highest in school history- and a school record of 12 victories, including the first ever FBS conference championship.”

When I visited with Steve Cox, he mentioned how strange it was to enter Razorback Stadium from the visitors’ locker room. When I shared this with Ty, I asked him how he thought it was going to feel returning to the field from the Razorback Stadium visitors’ locker room. “I really don’t know. Of course, I’m really hyped for it, but right now, we have a big one this weekend (WKU was playing Florida Atlantic that weekend) against FAU, we’ve really got to win this one, so, hopefully we can get through this one, get out with a win. Going into next week, I know that is going to be a really special one, but right now, we’re fighting for a conference championship, so we’re focused one week at a time. The way this season has been going it has been good for us (he and his family). For the return to Fayetteville, my mom has always been nervous when I am on the field, she’s fine, but she is the nervous one. I think it will be fun, and when it gets there I think everyone is going to have a good time with it.”

In wrapping up my conversation with Ty, I asked him if he had much contact with Steve Cox over the years. Every time I have spoken with Steve, he has always had nothing but good things to say about Ty. Steve respects and admires Ty and his family, and he is pulling for Ty to have a great experience on Saturday. When asked about his contact with Steve, Ty said, “He has always been a big idol for me. Just growing up in Charleston; Charleston has always been a really good town, but not a lot of big time athletes came out and moved on to the next level, and after that to the pros. So, always knowing that one of those guys from my high school, from the same area, that has been able to move on and live the dream of playing in the pros, he has always been an idol. We have always been in contact. Of course, he always sends me some motivational texts once in a while, and it’s really cool to have a guy like that who I grew up idolizing to be there for you. He’s a great guy.”

I told Ty that Steve had told me in his interview that he was going to wish Ty a good day and a great experience today playing at Razorback Stadium. Ty responded by saying, “That’s awesome. I hope I can see him on the sidelines and we can get that picture.”

Steve and I will both be on the sideline today, and I will take their picture; two Charleston legends, who meet in a place of destiny, Razorback Stadium, where both men’s lives changed. My hope for Ty is that his life and his athletic career takes the same positive path after this game that it did for Steve on that September day in 1976.

I’m going to quickly inject my opinion here. It may not be the most professional thing to do, but I believe in this strongly.

When Ty takes the field today, he deserves a standing ovation from the Arkansas fans. Ty was heavily recruited in high school by not only Arkansas but power five schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, and many others. He chose Arkansas because he wanted to play for the Razorbacks.

As a Razorback, he played hard. He played under multiple coaches, and played during a time when the program was at a low point. In fact, it could have been easily justified when he was in high school to have gone somewhere else to play given the state of the Razorbacks program. But he chose Arkansas.

It didn’t work out for Ty at Arkansas. Depending on who you talk to, and I am inclined to personally agree, Ty was never given the chance to develop at Arkansas. But he played hard anyway. He took beatings every week behind a very poor offensive line. He took hits that hurt me just to see him take on television, but he would always keep getting up and he kept playing.

Today is not a case of a player dissatisfied with his playing time and entering the NCAA transfer portal because he is unwilling to wait two years to start. Not at all. Ty left high school his senior year one semester early to get a head start on his development as a college quarterback. He gave it his all at Arkansas. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree and stayed until he had just one year of eligibility remaining. After having played one year for new coach Chad Morris, it was obvious to everyone that Morris was planning to bring in transfer quarterbacks and that Ty was not in his plans for the upcoming season.

Unless Ty wanted to stand on the sidelines his last year, after giving years of effort and taking punishment, he made the only decision he could make. He made a good choice. He entered the NCAA transfer portal and landed at a school that would give him an opportunity to play his last year of eligibility.

So, Razorbacks fans, show class and give Ty his due respect by giving him an ovation today. He will play hard for WKU today, just has he played hard for Arkansas. That is only fair and it is the only way it should be.

I will be on the sideline today at Razorbacks Stadium photographing Ty for tomorrow’s concluding edition to this series. But I will not be alone. Steve Cox will join me, and I hope to share with you tomorrow a picture of both men, two Charleston greats. Two men who took different paths, had different experiences, but share the same common experience of playing for both Arkansas and an Arkansas opponent in Razorback Stadium. And by the way, Ty and Steve both value their Charleston roots. When Ty is out there today, he will not be alone. Many of his family, friends, and fans from Charleston and across Arkansas will be with him on every down. And in Section 121 today, twelve members of the Storey family will be there to root for and to support Ty. Throughout my research for this series, I have grown to respect and love the Storey family for their class and integrity for how they have handled Ty’s experience at Arkansas and now at Western Kentucky.

Tomorrow, I will wrap up the series in the final installment of “Ty’s Story” with a look at Ty’s game today in Fayetteville, complete with pictures of Ty playing in today’s game. I hope to have post game comments from Ty to share with all of you. It is going to be a beautiful day today in northwest Arkansas, and I hope all Arkansans will make the trip to Fayetteville to support the Razorbacks, and to welcome Ty Storey home with an appreciation for all he gave to the Razorbacks football program.

Ty, we all look forward to seeing you back in Fayetteville today, and we hope you and your family have a great and memorable experience. Thanks to you for the four years of hard work and dedication you gave the Razorbacks program.

Steve and I will see you on the field.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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  1. It’s very hard on students when they lose the coach or teacher they love and respect ,some who join that group simply because of that person. All the years that they devote to that program means nothing to the administrators who only care about wins.

  2. Your articles have been great. I am so happy that someone finally wrote about both our hometown guys. It is a unique story, and finally someone told it. The people of Charleston appreciate you!!