The next seven days figure to be a whirlwind for Tyler Uselton.
“It’s been a football-filled summer and it’s not going to get any easier,” Uselton said. “Right after we get done with the Shrine Bowl, we report to camp at Butler on Aug. 1.”
A massive 6-foot-3½, 327-pound offensive lineman from Great Bend High School, Uselton has been taking classes in summer school at Butler Community College in El Dorado.
While Uselton has been active in organized offseason workouts with the Grizzlies’ football program, he also is making preparations for the upcoming 39th Kansas Shrine Bowl. The East vs. West game will be played on Saturday, July 28, at Welch Stadium on the Emporia State University campus. Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.
“I feel like I’m part of the team already,” Uselton said of settling in at Butler. “I have to get my classes finished early before I leave (for Emporia). Other than that, I will be missing the workouts (at Butler), but I will still be playing football.”
Uselton departs El Dorado for Emporia on Friday, July 20, where he will join 33 other players in the West camp. The players will undergo drills through Friday, July 27, in anticipation for the prestigious all-star game that raises money and awareness for Shriners Hospitals.
Powerhouse Butler, which has won six National Junior College Athletics Association national championships under head coach Troy Morrell (1981, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2008), finished No. 2 in the final NJCAA rankings last season with an 11-1 record.
The Grizzlies finished with a 7-0 record in Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference for the second straight year in 2011. Butler has won 10 of the last 11 conference championships and 12 of the last 14, dating to 1998, where it has compiled an amazing 93-5 record in conference play during that stretch.
Needless to say, the offseason conditioning program at Butler is in place with a high expectation level.
“It’s all organized,” Uselton said. “We’re running, working out together in the weight room and going through conditioning … agilities, footwork, change of direction and things like that.”
Uselton says he finds himself at his normal playing weight after tipping the scales at 335 while recuperating from knee surgery.
“I lost a little bit of weight since I’ve been there,” Uselton said. “When I first got here, after my knee surgery, I hadn’t done much and gained a bunch of weight and I came in at 335.
“Now I’m down to 327, again.”
Uselton tore the meniscus in his right knee during an official visit to NCAA Division-II Fort Hays State University. It occurred while he was working out for the Tigers in January.
“I was doing the broad jump,” he recalled. “It was the last thing I was doing. You know when you land in the squat position, I landed pretty deep and it popped.
“The knee started to swell up and had trouble walking. I was on my official visit there on Jan. 14. I got cleared, like April 14.”
Uselton says he has had no ill effects from the surgery.
“I was kind of skeptical the first month, but I have had no problems with it since then,” he said. “I feel like I’m 100 percent. It hasn’t bothered me since.”
Uselton said he is looking forward to the Shrine game.
“I know it’s a big honor,” he said. “I know everyone goes and watches that.
“Even when I was younger, I went and watched it during my freshman year when Coach (Bo) Black coached in it and I wanted to play in it and now I finally get to do it.”
Uselton developed a close bond with Black at GBHS. After all, he was the first freshman to receive varsity playing time during the Black regime.
“I think he’s the best coach in the State of Kansas, really,” Uselton said of Black. “We were really undersized, but we still won a lot of football games. People around the state really respect him.
“He does a lot for Great Bend, and he’s one of the reasons why we’ve won a lot of games.”
Playing on varsity towards the end of the season during his frosh year seemed to light Uselton’s fire.
“It definitely got me ready and helped me to know what to expect the next year and the following years,” he said. “Him taking me under his wing and giving me some playing time as a freshman was a big deal.
“I was so scared, though, going in there. After the first couple games, I got used to it and it gave me a lot of experience.”