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Pace speedster earns invite to Blue-Grey All-American Bowl

Brian Achatz
Pensacola News Journal

Pace speedster and senior leader Tyler Strain continues to make a name for himself.

After a standout performance at the combine in late June at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, Strain has been invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl this winter.

The date of the game is TBD at either AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, or the Atlanta Falcons' Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It means the world to get that invite,” Strain said. “I’ve always wanted to play in a bowl game. Just being in the Cowboys stadium was crazy. You walk in and it’s huge. The first thing you see is a giant TV screen. I was just wide-eyed looking at everything.”

At the combine, Strain participated in speed, agility and jumping drills, as well as a strength performance. He also received 1-on-1 coaching particular to his position.

The coach for Strain and the rest of the defensive backs was Mark McMillian, former NFL defensive back with an eight-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins.

“I really connected with him,” Strain said. “I only wish I had more time with him he could have crafted me even more. He is a really cool coach who will teach you whatever he can. He takes his time with you.”

Strain said he believes his speed caught people's attention and helped him earn an invite to the bowl game. It’s an aspect of his athleticism he’s always been proud of and able to rely on.

This track season, Strain recorded a 10.96-second 100m dash, placing him among elite company by breaking the 11-second mark. He’s also run a 4.43-second 40-yard dash.

At 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, he caught four passes for 124 yards (31 yards per catch) and rushed six times for 68 yards. He was mixed in occasionally on offense but never missed a snap of defense as a cornerback.

He had 34 tackles – several in which he chased down a ball-carrier to save a touchdown – four pass deflections and one interception.

“He’s got to play defense the whole time, and he does really well on special teams,” Pace head coach Kent Smith said. “With his speed, we’ve got to find ways to mix him in on offense. We run him on reverses, speed sweeps and throw to him deep.

“The No. 1 thing about Tyler is that he loves to compete. He always likes working and puts in his best every day. He really enjoys track, too.”

Strain has offers from Illinois, USF, South Alabama and Tulane. He’s picked up interest from Purdue and Wake Forest recently.

Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Derius Franklin also competed at the Blue-Grey Combine in Texas and hopes to receive a bowl-game invite.

Brian Achatz can be reached at bachatz@pnj.com