Tidwell revs up Mids

Navy will need linebacker's frenetic energy at No. 7 Notre Dame

November 11, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Tyler Tidwell has always been into adventure, action and aggression.

"We lived out in a rural area," said the native of Edmond, Okla. "I was always outside and stuff, riding horses and dirt bikes. I got my fair share of scrapes, stitches and trips to the emergency room. I drove my mother crazy."

Nothing has changed about his attitude, nor is there any reason to believe it will.

The Navy junior has a "motor that is running all the time" according to Keith Jones, who coaches Tidwell's position, outside linebacker. "The biggest plus is that he's going 100 miles an hour all the time. He's done a great job with his technique and really come on the last four games."

Tidwell will need all his horsepower tomorrow when Navy confronts No. 7 Notre Dame and its high-octane offense. "They've got no weak spots across the board, so all we can do is play our game and see what happens," he said.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis mentioned Tidwell prominently during his weekly news conference, citing the 216-pound player as the one Navy lines up at defensive end when shifting into a four-man defensive front in an effort to confuse the attacking team.

"Your quarterback better be sharp because you don't know what scheme they're going to be in," Weis said.

"I'm lining up like that a lot," Tidwell said. "It's fairly split between the three-point stance and the standup linebacker stance."

No matter how he appears before the snap, the role is suiting him well. After a slow start this season while he adjusted, Tidwell is tied for fifth on the team with 45 tackles, leads the team with 13 1/2 tackles for losses and is second to David Mahoney with five sacks.

"It's my first year starting, and you practice and prepare as much as you can to emulate game speed, but you really don't know what it is until you experience it," he said. "I was a little overwhelmed in the Maryland game [season opener]. Playing in front of big crowds was another thing. I had never done that. After a couple games, I got more comfortable."

His willingness to mix it up didn't hurt. Tidwell, the son of two retired Oklahoma City police officers, didn't idolize athletes, but Marines, particularly his father, Bobby, who was wounded twice in Vietnam. As a youth, he emblazoned his walls with symbols of the corps.

"By middle school, I knew I wanted to go to a military academy," Tidwell said. "My dad was never gung-ho about it or pushing me, but my high school coach was really gung-ho. It came down to Air Force or Navy."

An all-state selection at Deer Creek High School, which won the Oklahoma Class 4A title when he was a sophomore, Tidwell had been the most valuable defensive player in the Oklahoma Jim Thorpe all-star game.

Air Force was the predominant force in academy football at the time, but once Tidwell visited Annapolis, he fell in love. Coach Paul Johnson and his staff convinced him the program would be rising and after all, he was Semper Fidelis through and through and the Naval Academy was going to turn out Marine officers.

"I want to go into Marine ground [duty]," he said proudly. "And maybe when I get out of the military go into police work or work for the FBI, something as close as you can get to a military-type job."

A black belt in taekwondo before he was a teenager, Tidwell never wants to be left out of the action.

Note -- The two schools agreed yesterday to a 10-year contract extension, meaning they will play through 2016. Next year's game, which is already contracted, will be held at M&T Bank Stadium, and the 2012 game is scheduled to open their seasons in Dublin, Ireland.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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