It was June, and Tyler Stockton was in his final year at the University of Notre Dame. Tyler sat in his corporate finance class pursuing success in the shadow of the Golden Dome.
He had aspirations of working on Wall Street and was set up for his future. While playing football for the Fighting Irish, Tyler knew he was not going to play football after his college career.
In the summers, Tyler went to Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to do a two-week job shadow.
“I thought that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was all set up for me to do that after getting my MBA,” Stockton said.
Tyler listened to other's experiences on Wall Street.
After listening to their stories he thought to himself, “I do not want to do this.”
The next day, Tyler knew his degree was important for his life, but the thing he wanted most was to coach football.
While being a leader on the team, Tyler expected to walk on as a Graduate Assistant (GA) right away, but his world of college football was shaken up after his defensive coaches went their separate ways with new job opportunities.
Tyler thought he might not even be able to coach, thinking stepping up as a GA at Notre Dame was his only option. He thought it was over, ready to walk back to Wall Street.
“Right after the Pinstripe Bowl [in 2013], the next day I was about to send out an email to every person I met on Wall Street, asking for a job,” Tyler said.
With his alarm set early - to fool executives into thinking he was up early working hard - he was ready to send the email and go back to bed. But he never sent the email. Hours later, head coach Bob Diaco was calling Tyler, asking him if he would like to be a GA at UConn.
“I thought about it for 30 seconds after our conversation and said that I wanted to,” he said.
“I have always felt I have to outwork people.”
Before becoming the assistant head coach for Ball State, Tyler said his football journey started at a young age. He said it all started with his father, Lyndon Stockton, his biggest mentor.
Tyler said his dad was able to make him understand what it would take to achieve his goals. He said Lyndon was the hardest-working man he has ever met, a trait ingrained in him.
Lyndon said he remembers a conversation he had with Tyler while driving; Something he remembers being so profound for a fourth grader to say to him.
“‘Dad, you won't have to pay for college. I am gonna get a scholarship,’” Tyler said to Lyndon.
Working to fulfill his promise, Tyler was a “film junkie” at an early age, always breaking down film at his school - The Hun School of Princeton.
“The coaches would come up to me and say, ‘One day we are going to be working for Tyler, because he breaks down film and studies the game as if he is a head coach,’” Lyndon said.
Tyler said people were bigger, taller and faster than him in high school, but this never mattered to him.
“I was an undersized defensive lineman with a chip on my shoulder; that is kind of how I see myself as a coach now,” Tyler said. “I kind of feel underrated all the time and know I have to outwork people.”
With his work, Tyler developed into a four-star recruit, the No. 1 player in New Jersey, the 10th-ranked defensive tackle in the country and the 100th-ranked player in the nation during his time in high school, according to 247Sports.
Fulfilling his promise to his fathers all those years ago, Stockton committed to the University of Notre Dame.
“When I got my Notre Dame offer, my dad cried,” Tyler said. “He was bawling his eyes out, and I already knew where I was going after that based on his reaction.”
Lyndon said he had always been a Notre Dame fan, so when his son got the offer, he was very emotional.
“It was one of those moments where out of all the offers he received, that particular offer was just different,” Lyndon said.
Lyndon said with the decision to attend Notre Dame, Tyler was able to pursue a great education and have options set up for him after graduation.
“I have always told people that every father should have a son like Tyler,” Lyndon said. “He is disciplined, a hard worker, passionate and nobody is ever going to outwork him.”
Starting his collegiate career, he found himself only focusing on football, letting his GPA slip.
During a defensive meeting, Diaco read off a list of names who would leave the meeting and not come back until their grades were up; Tyler was on the list.
The discipline and help from Diaco, in Tyler’s eyes, got him two degrees from Notre Dame: An undergrad in marketing and his MBA in corporate finance.
“If it wasn’t for him showing an interest in me outside of football, I don’t think I would have ever thought about doing that or taking that as seriously as I needed to,” Tyler said.
As he got older, Tyler said he realized how valuable the education side of college truly was. A short time after getting his education, Tyler was reunited with Diaco.
Answering the call
When deciding to pick up Tyler as a GA, Diaco said it was a “very easy choice.” He described Tyler as tough, hard-working, gritty and smart.
Tyler said from the outside it may look cool to be a coach and make money, but at the end of the day, he got into the profession to change people’s lives, much like Diaco did for him.
“I learned at UConn that it is bigger than football, it is about impacting people's lives,” he said.
One thing is clear about Tyler's mentality as a coach. It can be off or on the field but for him, it all starts with one thing: Love.
“I want to show the guys how much I care about them,” Tyler said. “I feel if I show them how much I care about them, then they will feel the same way.”
He knows sometimes it will have to be tough love. Tyler said if someone wants to achieve something, it is his job to hold them to a higher standard and push them to be the best they can be.
After his time at UConn, Tyler spent 2016-18 at Western Illinois. By 2018, he worked himself up to a defensive coordinator position.
As he climbed the coaching ladder, Tyler wanted to make sure not to disappoint those who gave him the opportunity.
Coaching on the Big Stage
When the Ball State job came calling, he knew he wanted to be there. Tyler said he wanted to coach in Division 1 since he left Notre Dame.
Redshirt senior linebacker Cole Pearce has seen Tyler throughout his entire time at Ball State.
As a walk-on one year prior to Tyler joining the program, Pearce said he was focused on trying to adjust to life as a student-athlete in college. He said Tyler made an impact right away for the Cardinals.
“He is always showing he cares, has been genuine, loving and passionate about being a football coach,” Pearce said.
When looking to hire Tyler, head coach Mike Neu said he was looking to improve the run defense. With Tyler not being that far removed from his playing days, Neu still sees the fire and work ethic Tyler brings to the table every single day.
“We see the effort he attacks every day with. He has got a lot of passion and energy,” Neu said.
Although his first thoughts were that Tyler was crazy, junior linebacker Keionté Newson said he thinks there is no other coach in the nation who has the same intensity as him.
“You can tell he loves the game,” Newson said. “His love for the game is different. I have never been around a coach that has cared about the game and his players like he has.”
While working at Ball State, Tyler was named to ESPN’s 45 minority coaches under the age of 45 in the summer of 2022 and was also chosen to the American Coaches Football Association (AFCA) 35 under 35 list in 2021. When it comes to those awards, he said he has only gotten them because of the great work his players put on the field.
“When it is all said and done, hopefully, they can look back on me and say that I changed their life,” Tyler said.
As a mentor, Newson said Tyler has always pushed him to be “the best me.” He said Tyler always expects the team to be at their best at all times.
“I love coach Stockton to death,” Newson said.
Pearce said with Tyler's ability to be a genuine coach, he can give that mentorship/father figure role to help players out in situations for the better.
Even though he is past his playing years, Tyler can still be seen with pads on during practice, encouraging the players to hit him.
“When we played Army, he put on an Army helmet and was running around at times randomly during practice trying to cut guys,” Newson said. “I was like ‘Man I hope he doesn’t run past me.’ He would call your name out before hitting, and if you were not expecting it he would get you. He most definitely ran a couple of players over.”
With Tyler putting on pads from time to time during practice, Neu said he can see the little kid in him during those moments.
“The one thing I love the most is when we do a Fast Friday, the last thing we do on the practice field is an onside kick and work on hands; Well, he is the kicker,” Neu said. “He comes in at four o’clock in the morning and practices his kicks to make sure that they are on point for that day.”
While Tyler has climbed the coaching ladder at Ball State, Neu said it’s been great to watch Tyler move up over the years.
“It is what you hope to see [in coaching], to empower guys and give them a chance to run their room and side of the ball,” Neu said. “In his particular case, he has really done a great job.
The man off the field
“Nothing was going to be given to me, and I had to work harder than anyone else to achieve what I wanted to achieve,” Tyler said.
In a life dominated by football, Tyler focuses as much on the field as he does off it. Helping with the well-being of his players, his wife, or his child, Lyndon said.
“I could have done this interview when he was growing up and my answers would have been the same,” Lyndon said. “I saw it at an early age where his path in life was going to take him, and I am so happy that he is on his path.
“I know some people think it is about winning and losing, but Tyler has already won. I am happy because he is happy doing what he is doing.”
Each of Tyler’s mentors - Diaco and Neu - know the sky is the limit for Tyler.
“No ceiling,” Diaco said. “He’s got the energy, he’s got the work ethic, he’s got the humility [and] he’s got the brainpower to ascend in this profession as high as he possibly wants to go.”
The game of football is more than just Tyler’s passion.
“I just love it. I love everything that goes into the game of football,” Tyler said. “It means everything to me. Every step of my life is because of football. Football got me to college, football got me to UConn, football got me to Western Illinois where I met my wife. So every little step in my life, about 90 percent has been from football.”