Whenyou¬†receive as many recruiting letters as Oaks Christian School starsJimmy Clausen and Marc Tyler have, you develop a discerning eye. "You cantell which ones are handwritten and which ones are supposed to look likethey're handwritten," says Tyler. "I tried to read all of the personalones."
College footballcoaches all over America could've saved time and money by sending just one setof letters to the Clausen home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Clausen andTyler lived in adjoining rooms for most of the last three school years.
During that timethe two became the headliners of a star-studded show at Oaks Christian, a smallprivate school in Westlake Village, 24 miles northwest of Los Angeles.Including Clausen, a 6'3", 208-pound quarterback who committed to NotreDame in April, and Tyler, a 6'1", 220-pound running back who committed toUSC in June, nine Lions seniors are expected to sign with Division I-A programsthis year.
Around townClausen and Tyler have become A-listers, rivaling local celebrities such asHeather Locklear and Denise Richards. "We'll go out to Jamba Juice, andpeople will look at us and start whispering," Tyler says. "After gameswe'll sign autographs for 45 minutes."
All this issomewhat new for Tyler. Clausen is used to the attention, having carried aroundlofty-sounding monikers like Golden Boy since middle school, but Tyler didn'tblossom until the last two years. His combination of size, speed andpass-catching ability vaulted him to the top of his class of running backs.Last season he rushed for 2,195 yards and scored 45 touchdowns, beating outClausen for the Golden State Junior Player of the Year Award.
"It was goodfor Marc to have his own little spotlight," says Oaks Christian linemanDuke Lemmens, who is considering Florida and Texas A&M, among others."As good as he is, he doesn't act like it."
When Tyler, theson of former San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl running back Wendell Tyler,enrolled at Oaks Christian in 2003, he was commuting 80 miles each way from hishome in Lancaster, Calif. Shortly thereafter Clausen invited Tyler to stay overduring the week so he wouldn't have such a long drive. It wasn't easy for Tylerto leave his family and friends, but his dad was determined that his son getthe best education possible, in the classroom and on the field.
"At first[Marc] was real quiet and shy, and he didn't want to eat," Clausen says."But he gradually started getting more comfortable with me and my family.And in a few weeks he was eating all the food in the house."
Although Tylerremains close to his friends back home--he recognizes them by writingLancaster's area code, 661, in silver marker on his eye-black strips beforegames--he quickly became inseparable from Clausen. Every day after practicethey'd study together, watch TV and talk football. Clausen taught Tyler how touse flash cards to learn new words, Tyler coached Clausen on how to add anurban look to his wardrobe. "Without me," says Tyler, "he'd bedressing like an Abercrombie model all the time."
Now that bothClausen and Tyler have picked their college destinations and Tyler has foundother digs (he moved into an apartment 25 miles from Oaks Christian with hisdad in January), the flow of mail has slowed at the Clausen house. Most of thefootball-related letters now go to the school, where coach Bill Redell handlesthem.
"I can't tellyou how many requests we get for autographs," Redell says. "It's mostlyfrom Notre Dame fans for Jimmy. But now I'm getting two or three requests aweek for Marc, [USC--bound safety] Marshall Jones, even for myself. I've neverseen anything like it."
ALEX COLLINS/THE DAILY NEWS (TYLER)
Oaks Christian RB Marc Tyler