As Tyler Dean stared down at his French toast topped with strawberries and kiwi, the same dish he orders every Saturday during the fall at First Watch, he could feel his father staring at him from across the table.
The First Baptist Academy senior quarterback didn’t need to be told he didn’t play his best the previous day despite his team winning its district opener by 48 points.
Still, he values his father’s opinion.
“His toughness on me has rubbed off on me,” Tyler said of Terry Dean, who bled on the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as a Florida Gator for five years and as a member of three Sugar Bowl teams under Steve Spurrier in the 1990s. “I don’t think there’s anybody that’s harder on me than me. So he really doesn’t have to say anything. I knew I played not a very good game.”
Over the course of his son’s prep career, Terry has mastered the art of knowing when Tyler needs a critical voice and when he needs support. Football has always been the common bond between the father, who now serves as volunteer assistant coach at FBA, and the son, who has dreams of playing at the Division I level.
It is most evident during the Dean’s weekend ritual. After each Lions game Friday night, Tyler is joined by his parents, grandparents, two brothers and sister at Applebee’s where everyone shares their thoughts on the win or loss.
Tyler, however, cherishes Saturdays the most.
Breakfast at First Watch allows for some deep reflection.
As a three-year starter, Tyler has improved each year. He threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns during his junior season, making him one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Collier County heading into 2015.
The last two weeks haven’t brought forth the type of results Tyler or Terry have come to expect. The Lions (2-1, 1-0) fell to powerhouse Lakeland Christian in Week 3 and Tyler admitted he missed a few open receivers during the win over Evangelical Christian last week.
“He knows I don’t sugarcoat anything,” Terry said. “So when I tell him he made a good play he can take it to the bank. If you stink it up, you didn’t make the right read, you’re not putting in the effort, I’m going to tell you about it.”
It’s the type of honesty Tyler has come to appreciate. Southwest Florida hasn’t seen one of its quarterbacks succeed playing the position at a major Division-I school since Terry, a Barron Collier product.
Since his days in Gainesville, Terry turned a marketing degree into a successful career as a financial advisor. However, Tyler’s admiration of his father extends way beyond his success on the field and in the business world.
“The great thing about my dad is the first thing he taught me is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Tyler said. “That’s the main thing in my life. Xs and Os are probably second in my life. He’s done a great job making sure football isn’t the main thing in my life, but still keeping it very important. The shadow he casts is tough, though. For me it’s kind of tough because I want to be the best. It’s tough to maybe not be the best in your family or even not be the best among your siblings.”
It’s not for lack of effort.
Having watched plenty of documentaries on Peyton Manning, detailing the record-setting NFL quarterback’s thirst for watching film, Tyler, much like Manning and his father, never misses an opportunity to get into the film room. Saturday allowed for film study of the previous night’s game and a first look at Friday’s opponent, District 2A-7 contender Southwest Florida Christian.
Terry’s presence is invaluable.
“Because I’ve watched thousands of hours of film I know what to watch for,” Terry said. “For a quarterback, it’s the most important thing. When we’re watching film on SFCA, I can point out that linebacker who is faking a blitz a lot. Or you can pick up tells on whether he’s coming early. That’s when I tell Tyler he has to change up his cadence. You can’t always go on one (count). Sometimes you have to go on two.”
After viewing Tyler’s performance against ECS, Terry’s advice was simple.
“The more success you have the harder you have to work to keep it up,” Terry said.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound signal caller’s accuracy and courage in the pocket has drawn interest from Division I FCS programs, including Colgate. Tyler’s tireless work in the weight room and focus on getting rid of the ball faster make him a desirable prospect, Terry said.
Fathers working closely with their sons has become common place at FBA. Head coach Billy Sparacio as wells as assistants John Briggs, Stacy Howell and Dave Batiato also have children on the team.
“We handle it well. We’re tough on our sons,” Sparacio said. “Terry knows the position. He’s played it at a high level. He knows the expectations. We don’t settle for less than what we think they’re capable of.”
And Terry believes his son is capable of playing at a high level on Saturdays, which may bring a change to their Saturday routine.
Right now, Bokamper’s Sports Bar and Grill is the spot where the two eat lunch and watch the first halves of the noon college games. Afterward they try to fit in a nap unless Florida is playing.
Terry still bleeds blue and orange, frantically keeping up with recruiting and the day-to-day operations of the program.
“He’s very critical. He’s a very intense guy,” Tyler said. “He loves Gator games when they’re going well, but he’s not very fun to be around when they’re not going well.”
Terry is looking forward to re-prioritizing his Saturdays next to follow Tyler, who cherishes his support system.
“He knows I’ll always be there and have every confidence in him,” Terry said. “He knows I’ll be there to tell him I believe in him and to keep firing.”