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Oct. 14, 2006

by Missy Jenkins
Student Assistant, UVa Athletics Media Relations

Most athletes get recognition when they do something successful in their respective sport. It’s usually the point guard that shot 100 percent from behind the three-point line, the soccer goalie who blocked a penalty kick, or the wide receiver who caught a game-winning touchdown pass.

For Tyrus Gardner, the Cavaliers’ long snapper, recognition only seems to come when he makes a mistake.

“The only time you get recognition is when you mess up,” said Gardner, a fourth-year from Wytheville, Va. “So if you get no recognition that means you’re doing a good thing; you’re doing your job, and you’re staying on track. It’s a good thing.”

Gardner is responsible for punt and placekick snaps and has made his mark on Cavalier football over the past two years. In 2005 alone, he was perfect on all 60 snaps for field goals and extra points and was good on 50 of 54 punt snaps. Gardner was also pivotal in helping secure the upset of Florida State last season.

“My favorite moment was last year against Florida State when we had to punt the ball with less than a minute on the clock,” Gardner said. “Everyone was counting on me to get a fast snap off, so we could punt the ball quickly, so they couldn’t block it and basically seal the victory for us.”

While some players would be nervous in such a high-pressured situation, Gardner felt as though it was like any other play at any other time in the game.

“After doing so many repetitions, it was just second nature,” he said. “You just react and go through the motions you’ve always been taught and trained to do.”

While his athletic résumé is impressive, Gardner is always looking to improve his game.

“I need to get better and do it just perfectly; I’ve got to do everything perfectly,” he said.

Gardner joined the team in 2003 as a recruited walk-on but has since become a scholarship player, something Gardner feels privileged to have earned.

“I feel completely honored to be on full scholarship. You have to work hard for it,” said Gardner of his scholarship status. “After I finished snapping for one complete year, I found out I’d be on scholarship.”

Gardner had to look at other aspects of the University besides football when deciding if he wanted to come to UVa.

“Being a recruited walk-on, your first opinion is of the school and how good of a University this is. So football was second priority, not my first priority, and this school is an excellent University,” Gardner said. “That was my main decision since I was looking for my education instead of what was going to happen to me in football.”

Gardner has since become a scholarship player who sees a lot of playing time and gives a lot to the football program. Gardner’s roommate- holder and quarterback John Phillips– has noticed his commitment to the program.

“I’ve lived with Tyrus for three years, and I’ve got to know him really well. He is really dedicated; he has put a lot into it,” Phillips said. “He sacrificed a lot coming here. He’s settled into the long snapper position and has really done a good job.”

After three years on the team and two years as the long snapper, Gardner has enjoyed the experience as a part of UVa football.

“It’s been the best thing in my life – the team unity and all the friendships I’ve made. It’s a great organization to belong to,” Gardner said. Cavalier fans may not hear much about Gardner this season, judging from his impressive statistics, and that may not be such a bad thing.

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