Tyler Badie’s big heart allowed him to play a major role on the Missouri football team, and now possibly in the NFL.
Badie is projected to be picked in the third or fourth round after the NFL draft begins Thursday night in Las Vegas, but as one of the best success stories in this rookie class, he has already won.
Society often tells us what we can’t do because we’re either too short, too small, too Black, too white, too big or too whatever.
Badie has used that as motivation.
“There were people who told me not to go to Missouri because I would become a small fish in a big pond,” Badie said. “Missouri offered and told me they had top facilities, resources and played in the best conference from top to bottom. So, I went there because I wanted to become a big fish in big pond, to play in the SEC in the best conference and showcase my ability.
“Size really doesn’t matter. It’s what you do on Saturdays.”
Badie set the school’s single-season rushing yards record last season with 1,604 and scored 14 touchdowns on 268 carries. He was also Missouri’s leading receiver with 54 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns. But there is so much more to this kid than just football, which is why NFL scouts like him.
In 2005, the Badie family was displaced from their home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and moved to Randallstown. As he recalls, Badie played recreation football for the Owings Mills Wolfpack, but only one private school wanted him. Even public-school powerhouse Franklin, which has been known to knock on a few doors in the area to get players, ignored Badie.
It was off to the Friends School in Baltimore.
“We wanted a private school because the education system in our area wasn’t the best,” Badie said. “We wanted the security to know that I was getting prepared for the real world. We visited McDonogh, Boys’ Latin, St. Paul’s, all those private schools in the area, and the only school which accepted me was Friends, and I am grateful for that.”
Badie went to Friends from sixth to 10th grade. The Quakers have never been a high school football power, but Badie got a break when his mom, Tanjala Gipson, a pediatric neurologist, found a new job in Memphis, Tennessee. Still, he will never forget his time in Baltimore and at Friends.
“The food is so different,” said Badie, laughing. “I was used to Cajun, spicy hot food and in Baltimore they came out with these crabs and a lot of the seafood was cold. ... I had to get used to that. Southern hospitality is completely different than in the north, where everything is rush, rush, rush. People are just more rude. In the south, it’s ‘Yes, ma’am,’ ‘No, sir,’ full of respect. I had to get accustomed to my life in Baltimore.”
He added: “At Friends, I think we had about 20 people on our team. We had no lights. There were about 10 people in our crowd section while Gilman would have about a thousand. We would have a small, picnic-like football game.”
Thank goodness for the move to Memphis.
Badie played his junior season at Briarcrest Christian School as a defensive back before enjoying a breakout senior year, in which he rushed for 1,186 yards and 18 touchdowns. The local fans wanted him to play at Memphis, but Badie wanted the big time in Missouri. The Tigers took a chance on him when he was only 5-7 and 165 pounds.
“I was a late bloomer as far as recruiting, a little fast kid,” said Badie, smiling.
But he always had that attitude of being the best, which he developed from his mom and dad, Shaun, a soft drink salesman.
“Even at a very early age, you noticed the strong-willed mindset,” Shaun said. “I think it comes from a combination of myself and my wife; we’re both pretty strong-minded people. I guess a little has rubbed on him, too.
“Even at an early age, there has been a lot of criticism about, ‘Can he be an every down back, is he big enough to handle the rigors of the pro level?’ Me personally, in my home, I have a little notepad set up with all the negative criticism toward him, regardless if it’s media, reporters, or pretty much anybody who has said something bad about him and what he can’t do. Time to time, I will share that with him for a little motivation.”
Badie was named to several All-America teams while at Missouri. He was also selected to the SEC Community Service Team and was honored as the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year with a 3.9 GPA. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management last spring and is pursuing a master’s degree in athletic administration and positive coaching.
In the NFL, Badie is considered a change-of-pace back. He has good speed (4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash), quick feet and balance and is hard to cover as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield. Despite the small size, he can run inside the tackles and has enough burst to get through small holes. His liabilities are in pass blocking and picking up blitzes, which are usually problem areas for running backs coming out of college.
“I am just trying to move up and improve my position,” Badie said of the draft. “I went to the Senior Bowl to show that I could be a matchup nightmare for anyone, and I won all my one-on-one matchups. At the combine, I was consistent and ran my routes well. I wanted to be in an environment with all those top guys and show that I was a top guy and they can’t overlook me.”
Badie still plays with a chip on his shoulder. Shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Badie’s family moved to nearby Baton Rouge. They came back four weeks later and were living out of a FEMA trailer because of the destruction. Then they came to Baltimore to learn another life lesson.
“To get through adversity, that was the biggest thing in our household,” Badie said. “That if you stick together, there is a brighter situation in everything that you go through in life.
“I can talk about Katrina and it doesn’t cause anything traumatic because I know my family is safe. There are those who were involved in tragic situations and my prayers go out to them. My mom always taught me that adversity is a part of life, so why keep looking back? Everyone in my family is well and doing good in life. I am just a big believer in using situations as motivation and moving on.”