Editorial Note: This story served as the Flames Illustrated football game day program senior feature story for Liberty's home game against Presbyterian College on Nov. 9. Hyland finished his career as Liberty's active career tackles leader with 175 stops and was named to the Big South all-conference second team for the second year in a row.
How does Scott Hyland feel about this season being his last suiting up for the Liberty Flames?
It's impossible to even complete the question before the linebacker shouts – quite literally – his reply.
Shaking his head, Hyland's eyes grow wide in genuine disbelief.
"It's flown by. I remember my first team meeting in the spring when I was still in high school, sitting there, new to everything, and – wow – it feels like yesterday. It's been so much fun. The camaraderie with the guys and everything, I'm going to miss it to death."
He'll miss the football, of course – and the program will miss him. Hyland has seen playing time in every game from his freshman season forward, proving himself an invaluably versatile defensive linchpin amidst coaching and scheme changes.
"Coming in, I definitely saw myself as an underdog," Hyland relayed. "During my entire career, I've always looked to be the smartest player on the field and the hardest-working player on the field to make up for whatever's not there athletically. I just try to be a workhorse and do everything to the best of my ability."
That includes the mental aspects of the game just as much as the physical.
"I think that's why I've been able to have some success on the field, because I'm able to know what everyone is doing on defense, and if someone goes down I can play a different position."
Defensive coordinator Robert Wimberly agreed, explaining that the team is often forced to rotate players based on injuries. Hyland's ability to execute at the middle, weak side and strong side linebacker positions makes that easy on his team.
"He can play all of ‘em, and I think it's a tremendous credit to his football IQ," said Wimberly. "He's a very smart player, so we're able to utilize him wherever we need to in order to make sure we're productive."
Once settled into a position, Hyland generates plenty of productivity himself. The linebacker finished the 2012 season second on the team in total tackles (55), first in assisted stops (36), third in tackles for loss (5) and as one of five players to snag an interception during the season, earning himself Big South All-Conference second team honors in the process.
His on-field success, though, isn't necessarily what he'll miss most. Still in awe that his time on the team is coming to an end, Hyland looks back on the off-field aspects of his football career with the same (if not more) fondness as any tackle or pick.
"I'll miss all the bus trips and hotel stays, all the times with the linebackers," Hyland laughed. "It's a business trip, an away game; but we definitely have our fun, too. Nick [Sigmon], Dylan Lewellyn, Jimmy O'Grady – all of those guys are just a bunch of clowns. We have a ball. Even in practice we give each other a hard time, always talking trash to each other. It's a lot of fun."
Above all, the senior expressed his gratitude for his school and the environment, values and opportunities Liberty gave him. A graduate of Liberty Christian Academy and a Forest, Va., native, Hyland was raised steeped in the culture of the university and its mission to train champions for Christ.
"I think Liberty means more to him because it's been instilled in him a lot longer than most other guys," Wimberly stated. "He's been here – been at LCA, watched Liberty football games as a child – so you can tell he really loves being here on this campus. It's neat to see a young man that's really passionate about this university the way he is. This is a special place, and he saw that on the front end."
"There's no place, no place like it here. There really isn't," Hyland declared. "The fans, the atmosphere, the environment and the culture; the relationship between players and coaches… and just being able to be here and be with these guys working hard every day is something special."
He'll share a bit more time with the team this spring, albeit in a different role. After graduating in December, Hyland will work with team doctor Michael Diminick, M.D. in the orthopedic center and prepare for the MCAT and medical school.
"My goal is to be an orthopedic surgeon, Lord willing," Hyland said. He chuckled and added, "I used to laugh at people going into law school or med school for an extra four years, but I'm going to try and do it!"
Until then, Hyland will continue looking to make his final collegiate season the best yet, both on the field and off.
"It's been an honor just to get to be a little part of the legacy here. I knew it was going to go by fast from talking to the seniors when I was a freshman, and I definitely try to soak in every little bit," Hyland stated. "I've got no regrets; I just love it. To say that I've played here and with these guys… boy, it's something special, and I'm just so grateful to my Lord for giving me the opportunity to be here."
------ Ryley Rush is a Liberty University junior and is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics
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