He’s not as big or strong as many of the football players he competes with and against, but Tyler Grizzell said he always views himself as the best player on the field.
It’s partly because of his blazing speed — Grizzell is the fastest player on Permian’s roster and one of the fastest in District 2-5A — and partly because he plays bigger than his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame would suggest. Fellow defensive back Javier Gavaldon said Grizzell hits harder than most onlookers would suspect, and the senior free safety plays with a confidence that borders on cockiness.
“If he says he’s going to do something, and you say he’s not and he can’t do it, he’s like, ‘OK, let me show you,’ ” Gavaldon said. “He’s that type of person.”
That type of attitude has helped Grizzell, a two-year defensive starter who also has been the Panthers’ best return man this season, expand his football repertoire in recent weeks. He was forced into the punting role after the second game of the season and, despite the occasional dud of a kick, has gotten progressively better and more reliable.
Grizzell, who replaced an injured Barron Becker, has averaged 30.9 yards on 12 punts during the last three games. He has a long kick of 58 yards, and two of his punts have pinned the opponent inside its 20-yard line.
“When they called on me to punt, I was kind of surprised because I haven’t punted since my sophomore year and that didn’t go well,” Grizzell said. “But when they ask me to step up and do something, I put my full effort into it and just step up for the team.”
Permian kicking coach Keith Robinson said Grizzell, who sometimes works on his punting after all his teammates have left the practice field, is “doing a really good job” for someone so new to the responsibility. He’s also excelled in his other roles on the team.
Grizzell leads Permian (1-4 overall, 1-2 District 2-5A), which travels to face Amarillo Tascosa (0-4, 0-2) tonight, with 20.3 yards per kickoff return and 15.5 yards per punt return. Assistant head coach David Jones said Grizzell has been so effective because, instead of running side to side and trying to juke his way around opposing players, he tends to run straight up the field with little wasted movement.
That also served Grizzell well in a district-opening win against Odessa High, when he returned an interception 40 yards for the Panthers’ only defensive touchdown this season.
“Whenever there’s a big-play opportunity — as little as we get defensively — you’ve got to take it and do what you can with it,” Grizzell said.
He also ranks fourth on the team with 28 tackles, and third with 17 solo tackles, and Jones said Grizzell is equally adept against the pass and the run. He plays deep and in the middle of the field against most offenses and moves up to more of an outside linebacker position against run-heavy opponents.
So along with being versatile as an all-around football player, Grizzell is versatile within Permian’s defense.
“He’s got to do a lot of things and he’s got to learn a lot of things,” Jones said. “I’ve coached guys that are real fast and not always the smartest, and I’ve coached guys that are real smart and pretty slow. He’s got both.”
Jones also said Grizzell is a high-energy player who “doesn’t ever have a bad game,” and Permian head coach Gary Gaines called him as “tough as a boot.” Grizzell has coped with a few minor injuries this season, including a sprained knee, but hasn’t been held out or slowed down because of them.
Grizzell guts it out, and fills many roles in the process, because football is his primary passion. He said he considers every game, and even every practice, to be a blessing.
He puts so much into the game because he wants to help the Panthers turn around their season and return to the playoffs, and because it’s the only way he can make up for what he lacks in stature.
“I live off my speed and my heart,” Grizzell said. “If I want something done, I go get it and put my full forth effort into it.”