E.A. Sports Today

Driving force

Oxford sophomore RB Tyetus Smith-Lindsey driven to have a big year for Yellow Jackets

Oxford sophomore running back Tye Smith-Lindsey can go over 1,000 yards for the season Friday at Southside-Gadsden. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Oxford sophomore running back Tye Smith-Lindsey can go over 1,000 yards for the season Friday at Southside-Gadsden. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Tye-ing One On
Game-by-Game statistics for Oxford running back Tyetus Smith-Lindsey
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By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Tye Smith-Lindsey may barely be old enough to drive, but everyone around him will tell you he’s one of the most driven players they know.

And there’s a lot driving him these days.

The sophomore running back has burst on the scene as the lead back in fourth-ranked Oxford’s offense with numbers comparable to the two prolific Yellow Jackets backs preceding him.

After a modest start owing to being cleared to play from a broken hand just two days before the opener, he has rushed for nearly 750 yards in six games and is one long run away from 1,000 for the season.

Last week against Benjamin Russell he rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries. Two weeks earlier, at Cullman, he went for 293 and five touchdowns on 37 carries. That’s Roc Thomas and Tre Gamble territory.

“We didn’t give them the ball as much as we’ve given it to him weekly,” Oxford coach Ryan Herring said. “He’s doing a great job.

“He really just hits up in there like a fullback or tailback; he’s not just a scatback. Even though he’s not big in stature, you can give him the ball fourth-and-1 and he will run up in there like a 240-pound fullback. In 6A football you don’t see guys that small running the ball for those yards every week like he’s doing.”

Although he has no formal college offers yet, he is turning heads. On a recent trip to Auburn that included a conversation with Gus Malzahn, the Tigers’ head coach was notably impressed by the way the young running back has been gashing opposing defenses.

When Smith-Lindsey recited the numbers, Malzahn reportedly told him “that’s more than a lot of offenses have” and encouraged him to continue.

That’s the plan.

“It gives you the drive,” Smith-Lindsey said. “I’m a person who thrives on drive. I want to keep hearing that because it helps me.”

Smith-Lindsey – and it’s always both names – is driven by the need to succeed for the sake of his Yellow Jacket seniors, one of whom is his prize linebacker prospect cousin K.J. Britt, and to expand his horizons beyond the borders of his hometown.

Family Tyes

But the thing that really drives him is the memory of his grandfather, Horace Lindsey, his father’s father, a former high school coach in Clay County he would visit every Sunday after church and lost way too soon.

“He always brought great inspiration to me,” Tye said. “He always used to come see me play. I think when he came I showed out.

“I was maybe 8 (when he died) and it was hard on me. I wish he were here. I run the ball for him.”

But he’s with him every game. Smith-Lindsey puts his grandparents’ initials on his gear and makes sure they are on there with every new piece he gets.

“I’ve got a white towel and a black towel and have their initials and dates on them,” he said. “I don’t just put it there to put it there; when I touch the towel I think about them.

“One time I lost a glove. Somebody found it and asked whose it was. I said mine, but they said those aren’t your initials. I said it was for my grandpa. I acknowledge that type stuff because I care for them.”

Tye believes his grandfather would be proud of the season he’s enjoying. Playing on the varsity isn’t new to him. He was thrust into a starting role in the Jackets’ secondary and returned punts last year even with a broken hand and ligament damage that wasn’t confirmed until the spring. The injury kept him from playing basketball — the game where his father Tim made his mark – but he was back out for baseball and even scored a few runs in the playoff series at Cullman.

He could probably play cornerback right now, Herring said, but getting the ball 35 times a game doesn’t make that practical. He could still play some DB for the Jackets in the future.

“We’re going to do what works and if it’s working were going to feed him,” Herring said.

Name and number, please

There’s an interesting story about his name. His full name, Tyetus, comes from the Bible, but his parents altered the spelling “trying to be a little creative” and for those who might get a little tongue-tied trying to pronounce it they quickly point out the ‘e’ is silent.

Now, his last name, that’s another story. His dad was always known as Tim Lindsey growing up – it was the name on his driver’s license and when he played basketball at Jacksonville State — but it wasn’t until he was getting ready to graduate that he learned his legal name was Smith. Tim formally added the Lindsey to honor both parents and Tye has continued the tradition.

One name Tye will always answer to is ‘Deuce’, even though he wears No. 1 for the Yellow Jackets. It started when he ran to daylight wearing No. 2 when he played Coosa Valley League football and he carried the number all the way to fourth grade when he started wearing whatever number he was assigned.

The only reason he doesn’t wear 2 for the Yellow Jackets now is because quarterback Abe Peoples snagged it. But it wasn’t always that way. Smith-Lindsey grabbed 2 in seventh and eighth grade “and the only reason I got it is I got in line before him.”

Now, with his namesake number otherwise occupied, he wears No. 1 to honor teammate Jacob Sears, whose senior football season was cut short by shoulder surgery after summer baseball.

He could be wearing 1 for a while. He and Peoples are in the same grade.

“I’d love to make a deal,” he said.

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