E.A. Sports Today

Bullock cherishes every moment

Anniston senior safety overcomes serious health hurdles to get back on the field

Anniston safety TyQuez Bullock adjusts the guardian cap on his helmet under the watchful eye of his mother Tosha.

Anniston safety TyQuez Bullock adjusts the guardian cap on his helmet under the watchful eye of his mother Tosha.

“Actually, I cried, because I really wasn’t expecting to play any kind of sports.”

— Anniston safety TyQuez Bullock on his reaction to being cleared to play this season.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Watch the way players go through their pre-game routine in any high school football stadium tonight and you might get the sense it’s just another Friday night in the fall to many of them. But TyQuez Bullock is truly thankful for every minute he’s out there.

If you knew all the Anniston senior safety has gone through just to be out on that field – tonight at Moody — you’d be thankful, too.

Since the age of 2, Bullock has been dealing with serious medical issues that not only threatened his ability to play but his life.

“He’s the miracle player on the team,” his mother Tosha said.

Bullock was born with what only a few years ago was identified as an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) — an entanglement of abnormal blood vessels — on the right side of his brain. It has always been an issue, but over the four years since the condition was diagnosed, he underwent brain surgery, suffered a stroke, fought through two bouts of pneumonia and, most recently, had a scare involving his lymph nodes.

“I thank God every morning I wake up,” he said, “because He’s the reason I’m on the football field. He has truly blessed me because I wasn’t supposed to be walking or anything like that.”

When TyQuez was in grade school he would walk around with what family members came to refer as simply “The Look.” It made it seem like he was disinterested in a lot of what was going on around him, but there were deeper issues at work. A counselor suspected he was having silent seizures.

His eighth-grade season was by far his most productive, but the day after his final game of the season, he complained of a possible broken collarbone, felt dizzy getting out of bed and fell, hitting his head. As he prepared to go to the doctor, the water coming out of shower stung as it rained over his body.

Tests revealed the AVM and he was told it could be treated – often successfully — with medicine or surgery. He was torn between the options and still wrestling with the idea of surgery up to the day before the procedure. An emotional conversation with cousin Antoine Bullock convinced him surgery was the way to go.

But a complication developed during the procedure and it had to be suspended. He finally had the surgery in 2011, but suffered a stroke the day after it and lost feeling on his left side. He had to relearn how to walk and write.

“If you saw him you wouldn’t expect him to ever be able to come back, especially when you see the scar on the side of his head,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock said.

But TyQuez did get back on the field as a junior, but the return was short-lived as he developed swollen lymph nodes in his groin that left everyone fearing the worst. He got through that scare and was cleared to play this season two weeks before the opener.

“Actually, I cried,” TyQuez said, “because I really wasn’t expecting to play any kind of sports.”

Some might question allowing him to play football again, but his mother was all for it.

“Everybody was telling me you’re crazy for letting him play again,” Tosha said. “I believe he wouldn’t be living if he didn’t, because sports are his life. The doctors were so shocked; they couldn’t believe he bounced back the way he did. They said they hadn’t seen it before.”

Although TyQuez says he’s 100 percent today, there are precautions. He wears a special concussion helmet during games and in practices attaches a padded guardian cap to the outside of his headgear. The coaches are careful to limit the impact during contact drills and TyQuez is keen to use the proper technique when tackling.

Don’t believe he’s only playing now because he’s the head coach’s nephew, the perception of which Eddie Bullock is keenly aware; he coaches three nieces on his girls’ basketball team and has coached a son and another nephew on his football team. TyQuez has started all year on the Bulldogs’ defense because he’s earned his place.

Four weeks ago against Hayden he made an interception his coach called “a big-time play.” Last week in the homecoming game with Springville he led the defense with nine tackles and almost had another pick.

“He’s always been a pretty athletic player, good instincts,” Eddie Bullock said. “If you saw him when we first started, immediately after the surgery, he couldn’t even walk. He couldn’t control his leg. So when you see a kid that goes from not being able to walk to actually running out on the field and getting picks, it gives you a better appreciation for where he is when you know where he came from.”

If Hollywood did a movie on TyQuez’ journey, the triumphant final scene would be of his pick against Hayden. The Wildcats were driving, but TyQuez got himself in position and made the play to keep them out of the end zone.

“In my mind I wanted to run it back,” he said. “When I got it, I knew I had that ability. I knew I was back 100 percent. Once I got the pick and started running it back, I knew I was OK with everything.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer for East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story or pitch a story idea, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on Twitter at Al Muskewitz@easportstoday1.



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