Garfield graduate Prince-Tyson Gulley put himself on the radar of NFL coaches and front office personnel two weeks ago with a memorable performance.
Gulley led the Syracuse University football team to a 38-14 victory over West Virginia on a snowy Dec. 29 evening in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
In three years with the Orange, Gulley had never rushed for 100 yards in a single game.
He did that and more against the Mountaineers by rushing for a collegiate career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He also caught five passes for 56 yards and one touchdown.
“Those types of conditions are meant for running backs,” Gulley said this past week in Akron.” I was ready for the snow. I could feel the snow, but we had heated sidelines. Yeah, it was cold, but my adrenaline was pushing me. I just wanted to play ball.”
Gulley, who says he is “5-foot-8 on a great day” and 195 pounds, returns to the Syracuse campus this week for classes after a performance that earned him MVP of the bowl game.
“The fact that we came into that game knowing that we were going to run the ball a lot was exciting,” Gulley said. “As soon as I knew that, I knew I had to prepare to carry the load and help the team win with our other running back [junior Jerome Smith]. They put a lot on us to help win the game.
“It reminded me of our rival game every year when I was at Garfield with Buchtel. That whole week my mindset was just like that and I was thinking back to when we would play each other. I knew I had to play at a higher level.”
Smith rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries in the bowl game and will also be a senior next year.
Gulley, a 2010 Garfield graduate, finished the season with 825 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 157 carries. He also had 33 receptions for 282 yards and two touchdowns.
“None of this surprised me,” said Garfield coach Bob Sax, who coached Gulley on the varsity team for four years.
“He is one of, if not, the most talented kids I have ever coached. His first year he was doing the kickoff return thing and he got a little action here and there. Last year, he had some injuries that he had to fight through and everything else. I expected this out of him. I didn’t think he would go out and put up over 200 yards and be MVP of a bowl game, but nothing he does surprises me.”
Smith gained 1,176 yards on 228 carries and scored three touchdowns this season. Gulley said he looks forward to teaming up with Smith next season as seniors.
“We are looking at going in the same way it was this year,” Gulley said. “We will go with a 1-2 punch at running back.”
Sax said Gulley, 20, displays “great hands out of the backfield” and has proven that he can “run inside the tackles.”
“The other guy is a bigger back,” Sax said. “You need two. You always see in the NFL they are using two and three guys. It is not 30 years ago when you have one running back doing it all. I think they complement each other very well. I think Tyson really showed a lot his junior and senior year of high school and he is showing that in college.”
Gulley and Smith will enter their senior seasons with high expectations and a new head coach, Scott Shafer, who was promoted after serving as defensive coordinator under Doug Marrone, who left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
Gulley is pleased with Shafer taking over and wonders if he will reconnect with Marrone.
“The way I look at it, that is a move to better his career,” Gulley said. “It is an opportunity for him. . . . We still have to focus on playing as a team, regardless of who the coach is. I wish him well. It hurts. He is a great coach and a good guy. It was nice getting to know him and I feel like he was certainly progressing as a coach, but it is a better opportunity and hopefully one day he can pick me up out of Syracuse.”
When asked if he thought he could play in the NFL, Gulley said: “Yes, I actually do. There is still more work when it comes to improving my game. I think I have the talent. I just have to keep working hard and stay focused.”
The Orange finished the season 8-5 and winners of six of their final seven games.
Sax, 42, graduated from Garfield in 1988 and just completed his 11th season as Garfield head coach after serving as an assistant coach for 13 seasons under former Golden Rams coach Bill McGee. Antoine Winfield, Chris Wells and Whitney Mercilus are three Garfield graduates currently playing in the NFL, and Sax thinks Gulley might be the next in line.
“I think he has got a chance to play in the NFL,” Sax said. “I texted him right after the game, and I said something to the effect of ‘I think you just opened a lot of doors for you to build on.’ He showed that he can run and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. When you look at the NFL, you see a lot of other backs similar to him that can do those things.
“He is focused and he knows what he wants to do. He is working his butt off to reach his goals. I am happy for him because he is a great kid and a great competitor.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com.