Tyson Summers and his family will remember the win over Savannah State in week one for a lot reasons.
It began his tenure at Georgia Southern with a victory. He was given the game ball by his players and coaching staff and he was able to share the experience with his wife, Beth, and his three sons, Jake, Walker and Anderson.
But most importantly, Beth’s mother, Patti King, got to watch her son-in-law win his first game as a collegiate head coach. King fought to make it through to see the game, and she did. She passed away just five days later after a long illness.
“She’s as strong as they ever were,” Tyson Summers said. “It’s a tough thing.”
According to Summers, he and his family were able to get through the past few weeks because of the bond that the entire football team has built in the short time he has been here. Summers has told the players that he loves and cares about them, and they’ve reciprocated that affection during this hard time.
For the SSU game, the players had the letters “PK” written on the tape on their wrists. It was their way of showing support for both the Summers’ family and King. The idea came from two of the senior leaders on the team: cornerback Darius Jones Jr. and center Andy Kwon.
“Kwon came up to me and was like ‘do you want to do this?’ and I thought that was awesome,” Jones Jr. said. “Basically, this is a family. Anytime you see a part of your family hurting, that hurts you too.”
This wasn’t the first time the team had come together to show support for King. During summer camp, the coaching staff put together a character-education class that’s designed to reach the players about life off the field.
When Summers did a session on family, he mentioned that King was ill and what their family was going through. What the players did the next day was a complete surprise to him.
“I look up the next day and the team had bought flowers and had signed a card. Every single kid that was in camp signed it and brought it to Beth,” Summers said.
The connection the team has carries onto the field as well. The team plays for each other, and for the coaching staff, which Summers says is also a tight knit unit. This goes a long way in making everything fun and more rewarding for everyone.
“As a team, us caring about each other as much as we do, that’s more important than the talent. Because when you care about somebody, you want to do good for them,” Jones Jr. said.
The Eagles will need that bond to carry them through the next month. The team won’t play a home game again until Oct. 27, and their opponents include Georgia Tech and the defending Sun Belt champs in Arkansas State. But if any team is capable of enduring it, it’s this GS team.
Summers said, “This is one of the best group of kids I’ve ever been around. We got guys who care about people, who care about ball and who care about Georgia Southern. As long as we have that, I’ll be happy and they will too.”
Photo courtesy of Beth Summers.