#81 Tyler DeGirolamo
E-mail: tad33 AT pitt.edu
Now to my first official season as an Ultimate player. If I could sum it up in one word, I think I’d have to choose -failure-. I started off horrible. I didn’t know what I was doing, people kept yelling words like “force”, “mark”, and “poach” at me. Needless to say I was confused and felt like a fish out of water. While on the verge of quitting, Nick “Killz”marick enlightened me to how the game works. He took me aside after one horrible point where I dropped two discs, “clogged the lane”, and missed a wide open “in cut” (whatever that was). What he told me next changed my Ultimate career forever, he said “Tyler, don’t worry about anything else this next point. I want you to wait till this guy (points at guy on my team) catches the disc, then run as fast as you can toward the endzone. Nothing else.” I went out, did just that, caught my first goal ever, and haven’t stopped doing that exact same thing since.
After barely making the A team, I began playing ever week and slowly, but surely, I felt like a was understanding the game more, to the point of thinking “Hey, maybe I’m kinda sort of decent at this game.” While riding this high, I met the person who would eventually become the “bane of my Ultimate existence”, Alex Thorne. He was the one who would lead, if not contribute, to most of my failures in the game thus far. The first of which came on a cold, dark night, in the dead of winter.
I had joined up on Alex Thorne’s Winter League team, West View (the rightful Winter League Champions). I had made it thru the first few weeks of play unscathed, but the tides would turn that fateful night. We were crushing some Winter Leaguers that night as usual, when time started to run out. As the clock ticked down, my teammate threw up a last second blade to me alone in the end zone, or at least I thought I was alone. As the throw came in, I backed up in order to clap catch it at my chest. Little did I know that a 5′ 7″ train, named Alex Thorne was starting to build up steam. Right as I was going to CLAP CATCH the disc, at MY CHEST, Alex, with a full head of steam, leaps into the air (and off my back) to score the last 2 meaningless points of an insignificant game. Yes, that night Alex Thorne skied (and fouled) me. That was my first epic failure. Good job, Al. I never even saw it coming, literally.
The next moment to define my season as a failure came during the Spring. It was the first big tournament of the year, Trouble in Vegas. I was looking forward to warm weather, fun times and playing in my first big time ultimate games. Well, turns out I got to have none of them. The weather sucked (hailing, freezing rain, high wind, cold as….well I don’t know but it was cold). I don’t know if I have ever played a sport in worse weather. Now as for fun times that I was supposed to be having, well I think the weather explains what happened to those. At one point, it got so bad Weasel, our coach, had to send half of our team back to the hotel because we were too cold and playing pathetically. Now for my last goal of “playing in the big times”, well in order to accomplish that, you actually have to play. Now I’m over exaggerating. I played quite a bit the first few games, but was hopelessly overwhelmed by the level of play. I couldn’t catch a disc, make a cut, or throw a disc. This last part led to my “benching” (we didn’t have benches but you know what I mean), during a windy game against Carleton. For those of you counting, that failure number 2. (Now I’m not upset about being benched, it was the right decision, but just sucked.) Sitting on the sideline, that game gave me an opportunity to look back at where I had come from and where I was now. This motivated me to work even harder to become a better player.
I was more successful throughout the Spring, and by the time we had reached our Sectional tournament, I had worked my way on to the O line as a cutter and started scoring some goals. Around the time of this tournament, I heard about a mythical award called FOTY or Freshman Of The Year. I believe it was my teammate Plunkett who first told me about the honor, and how he had lost it to Freddy Tsai the year previous 🙂 . Now for some reason I got it into my head that I had a chance to win this award. So throughout the Series I had FOTY on my mind. After qualifying for Natties, our team had the chance to relax. This is where Alex Thorne would once again screw me over. During the break Alex won FOTY, and the UPA decided to come up with some bullshit 2nd team FOTY and gave it to me just to rub in the fact that Thorne had once again ruined my hopes and dreams. Again failure #3.
Next on my personal road to failure was college Nationals. We got there and the team’s hopes were high, including mine even though Alex had recently put a big damper on them. We played solid throughout pool play and made our way into pre-quarters. We were set to play against our Regional rivals Cornell. During the game, Alex somehow managed to overshadow my 8 goal performance and as he helped lead the team to its first quarters appearance ever. Damn you Alex, that one hurt a lot. For the final time, failure #4.
So at the end of the season, the final score was Alex-4 Tyler-0. However, on the way to my personal defeat at the hands of Alex Thorne, I managed to: 1-learn a game that I love to play and will continue to play the rest of my life. 2- Have more fun than I could have imagined during my first year of college. 3- Place 5th at Nationals and be a part of one of the greatest teams I’ve ever played on. 4- Become part of a team, no scratch that, a family, that I will have for the rest of my life. So in the end, I guess the score turned out to be Alex-4 Tyler-4 . I guess I can live with a tie.
2013 Callahan Finalist
Since my very first Pitt Ultimate practice in 2009, Tyler has been astonishing me with the plays he can make.
As someone who has been embedded in the Ultimate community (literally) since diapers, I had never – and still have never – seen the kind of athlete he is dominate our sport. Aside from his obvious size and speed, Tyler is gifted with both a freakish level of coordination and an unyielding determination to better himself. What many people have probably lost sight of in the last 5 years is that unlike someone like 2011 Callahan winner George Stubbs, Tyler had never even seen a competitive game of Ultimate when he came to Pitt. In his first 2 years of college Ultimate, he propelled himself to the top of one of the country’s most competitive programs. In his first year, he did it mostly by dominating physically. There were a couple guys who could jump higher, and maybe a couple guys who could run faster, but there was nobody that could do both.
Since arriving here for his sophomore season, I have seen him go from being an unstoppable goal-scoring receiver to one of the most complete players I can remember since Brodie Smith. His throws (although rarely seen, since most of his possessions begin in the opposing team’s end zone) have exploded in the last year. There was a time that seems a distant memory for me when Tyler had to be instructed on how to throw his forehand upfield in a cross wind. Now, his power has been refined in a way that unleashes 80 yard forehands, backhands and full field hammers in pretty much any weather that it’s reasonably possible to do so.
Once a player who was mostly interested in scoring goals, Tyler re-discovered his roots on this team last year by once again finding his way onto the D-line. Since then, he has become the kind of blanket defender that takes the other team’s most dominant player out of the game (and in practice). If it’s a handler, Ty’s agility and absurdly disruptive mark are enough to take him out of a game. If it’s a short, quick, downfield cutter, Tyler can simply take away the under and force him into deep space. If it is the other team’s most dominant receiver, well — just send them both long. Good luck. As someone who has been fortunate enough to play with some extremely talented players, I can tell you that it’s hard to think of anyone I’d rather build a team around than Tyler in Ultimate today. I understand that is a broad comment – one that encompasses more than just college Ultimate – and that’s how I intend it to be. I’ve played with him at Club Nationals, and although we were playing against the lower tier of Open competition, I didn’t see any teams contain him. I watched him on the NexGen tour, and I saw him lead a team full of college’s best players in goals (nearly doubling the next closest), assists (with the exception of Pitt teammate Alex Thorne, nearly doubling the next closest) and D’s. Incredibly, he managed to do that all while being in the lower half of the team in total touches AND taking on the opposing team’s toughest matchup. The conclusion? He’s simply a monster.
With all that being said, I also understand that the Callahan award is not just about being College Ultimate’s most dominant player. As a varsity athlete who is relatively new to the game, I’m sure there was a transition period for Tyler when he first began playing competitive ultimate. Calling your own fouls? Observers? Discussing penalties? All of this is foreign stuff to a new athlete in our sport. Yet, Tyler never seemed uncomfortable with this. He always wanted to know more about rules, he always wanted to get the call right, and the transition period ended rather quickly. I can say with full and complete confidence that Tyler is one of the most honest, humble, competitive players our sport has at the top today. For the first time since his Callahan video dropped, I caught up on some of the responses here and on reddit about the length of the video, the boring catches, him spiking or looking douchey with a mohawk or what a tool those god forsaken gloves make him look like (don’t worry, he never reads RSD) — but I assure you: Those boring catches are a reflection of his deadly speed, I hate that mohawk and those gloves just as much as you do and any end zone celebration or chest pounding or disc spiking is a product of Tyler’s love for the game, passion for his team and one helluva badass competitive spirit that burns constantly. He plays the game honest, he respects his opponents by constantly giving them his best and he is a pretty damn good guy off the field as well. I’d tell you more about what a sucker for puppies he is or how he constantly proves himself to be a genuine friend, but I don’t want this to get too mushy.
One day, when he isn’t spending as much time trying to be the best player and student he can be, I’m sure he will make for an even stronger ambassador for this sport than he already is. Nobody works harder on the track, nobody works harder in the gym, nobody wants to win more in practice and nobody is more deserving for the Callahan award this season.
Isaac Saul #19
As Pitt’s trainer and assistant coach, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Tyler for the last two years. His athleticism has always been impressive – this February he had the 2nd best endurance test time on the team (behind endurance freak Aaron Watson); he was first on the team in pushups to failure, benched 225 pounds 6 times, and had a standing vertical leap of 34 1/2 inches. This was all before we even began our speed and power training.
These results were somewhat expected, but Tyler’s attitude towards training is what’s more impressive. Though he has every right to do so, he refuses to rest on his laurels. When I talked to him at the beginning of the year on what he wanted to work on this year, he said he “didn’t think [he] was explosive enough.” He is the best athlete in the country, yet no one I’ve worked with checks in with me more about his conditioning and lifting program to make sure what he’s doing is optimal, and he’s doing all that he can. Before the last interval of every track workout this year, Tyler would ask me for a goal time for his last rep. I’d have him aim high, and he’d never fail to hit it. So he ran 7 400s already? He ran the last one in 54 on a slow indoor track. 7 200s already? Last one in 25. Just finished a tournament yesterday? I run into him in the middle of an 8-mile run.
When an injury forced him to end a conditioning test early, he led the charge to not let anyone on the team (himself included) who did not improve their time over the next month play in our first spring tournament. Despite being in already-great physical condition and having the best time on the team by a wide margin, Tyler was showing that excellence and constant improvement in all aspects, even strengths, is required. And he did so by example. This attitude of finishing strong and demanding excellence in himself and his teammates propelled Pitt to several important comeback wins this year.
Against Colorado in the finals of MLC this fall, Pitt was down 6-5 at half. In the second half Tyler played completely smothering dump defense on Jimmy Mickle, denying him the disc on resets, taking him out of the game. and forcing their offense to go through other players. This fueled the 6-1 Pitt second half to win the tournament.
Against Dartmouth at Florida Warm-Up, Pitt was down 7-10. From that point on, Tyler had 2 goals, 4 assists, and 1 point block to lead the comeback to a 14-12 victory.
Against UNC at Stanford Invite, Pitt went down 7-4 at half, and traded to 8-10. From then on, Tyler had: 1 break huck assist, 1 huck to the goal line, 1 sky followed by the immediate assist, 2 Ds (including 1 on our goal line with UNC 5 yards from winning), 1 60-yard hammer huck, and the winning goal catch, all with 0 turns.
Finally, in the regional final against Ohio, Pitt was down a break 7-8 at halftime. Tyler once again led the 2nd half charge, finishing the game with 23 points played, 4 assists, 3 Ds, and 6 goals, including the game-winner. I don’t have much else to say. He’s the most dominant player both offensively and defensively in the country, which the stats on the NexGen tour back up. He’s an athlete rarely, if ever, seen in this sport, yet works harder and demands more of himself than almost anyone I’ve ever worked with. I’ll leave you with his performance from Regionals finals, including the most impressive D I’ve ever seen in person.
It’s quite a year for selecting a Callahan winner in both divisions. Thanks to ever-increasing game footage, players are becoming not just regional but also national stars (also in large part in the Open Division due to the NexGen tour). Despite all of the excellent players and their shining resumes, I would not hesitate to cast a vote for Tyler DeGirolamo.
I have spent a lot of time watching ultimate over the past year. I’ve seen almost every one of the top candidates – live and in person – play at the college level, the club level, and, for some of them, on the NexGen tour.
There is no player in the college game as dominant as Tyler DeGirolamo. It is as simple as that.
He has now finished at the last two College Nationals with the most number of goals scored. He led the NexGen tour in goals scored and stood head and shoulders above the rest of the ’12 tour with the highest involvement yards. He also stands alone as the most effective goal scorer, by a mile. Just browse his stats from the NexGen tour – outstanding on both offense and defense. And that’s against the country’s best club players. Imagine how he matches up against college kids (and next to him, many of them look like kids).
The answer is that he is unguardable. He is simply too big, too fast, too strong, and too skilled with the disc. Back him by ten yards? Fine, he beats you under and hucks to a continuation cut. Try to stay tight? He will beat you deep, often easily, as illustrated by the number of pancake endzone catches in his Callahan video.
His athleticism is only made more potent by his awareness on the field and his ability to take over games. At Warm Up, with Pitt trailing Dartmouth in what looked like it would be a shock upset, he stepped up and had two goals, four assists, and a critical point block down the stretch to win it.
Now, of course, you can explain similar hype around any of the top guys. The difference maker is that DeGirolamo makes all of it look easy. He simply crushes the best defenders in the game, getting huge separation on cuts. Ultiworld’s Wes Cronk called him the closest thing to the “Lebron James” of Ultimate – his package of athleticism, speed, dedication, and big-game talent just surpasses the rest of the field. He consistently dominates on offense, takes the toughest matchups when he plays defense, and rarely has a bad game.
Yes, DeGirolamo benefits from playing with Alex Thorne, a true great in the game in his own right. But every one of the Callahan nominees is being supported by excellent players around them.
There are legitimate knocks on DeGirolamo: I don’t care much for his attitude when the team isn’t playing at its best. He seems frustrated by his teammates at times, and can come across as whiny. But I really feel that that is overshadowed by his outstanding talent. He is the best player in college and should win the Callahan award.
I would implore potential voters: don’t vote for the best Callahan video. Go back and watch game tape, watch the players over the course of an entire season. DeGirolamo is the best. He has a National title, he has three scoring titles on the biggest stages, and he can dominate on both sides of the disc. As good as players like Dylan Freechild and Jimmy Mickle are, this is TD’s year.
Written by Charlie Eisenhood for Ultiworld
2012 Skyd Breakmark All-American
Written by Bryan Jones for Skyd Magazine
2009 Metro East Freshman of the Year 2nd Team
-Written by Eddie Peters