It’s a scorching hot August morning and the first day in full pads for the Harmony Longhorns.
With music blasting in the background, quarterback Ayden Parks takes a handoff and slips it into the arms of Tyler Emans. With a defensive lineman plugging a hole that should have been there, Emans gets the defender to lean to his right with a quick jab step and then makes a sudden burst in the other direction –getting by untouched until he is finally brought down by linebackers downfield.
“That five yards,” Head Coach Don Simon yells. “No hole and we gain five. I’ll take it all day long,” In fact, it is something the fifth-year head coach will not only take all day long but hopefully all season long as he relies on his star junior running back to carry the load for the Longhorns this year.
“He’s really an incredible young man,” Simon says of his junior running back. “He came here in 2019 and set the tone as a freshman and has just continued to get better and better. His work ethic is amazing.”
Eman’s family migrated to Central Florida from the North after his last year in middle school. As a freshman, he stepped in and earned significant playing time and eventually moved to a starting role, finishing the season with a team-leading 409 rushing yards and five touchdowns as the Longhorns went 2-8.
After Harmony got off to a 0-4 start in 2020, the Longhorns caught fire and won four of their final five games to finish at 4-5. Emans played a major role in that turn-around, earning All-county recognition by leading the team in rushing with 828 yards – averaging more than nine yards per carry and scoring nine touchdowns on the ground.
“All our opponents knew we were going to run the ball and they still had a tough time stopping him,” Simon said about Emans. “He just give you that extra effort all the time.”
But the thing that has impressed the Harmony staff the most about Emans has been his determination to get better at all aspects of his game. “After freshman season, we wanted him to work at catching the ball out of the backfield,” Simon said. “He came back last season and led the team with five touchdown receptions. It’s just an example of the type of player he is. He never has been the type to be satisfied at staying status quo. He is always trying to improve. And get better.”
Emans possesses a unique combination of speed, toughness and power. In the off-season, he packed an additional 15 pounds of muscle on to his frame and now stands at 5-11, 205-lbs. He describes his running style as “smart” but “physical” when he needs to be.
“Avoid contact when necessary,” he said. “You can gain more yards running past or around someone than running over them. But at the same time I’m not afraid of contact. If we need a yard, I will do whatever I need to gain a yard.”
Although soft-spoken, Emans is the unquestioned leader of the Harmony offense. “I’ve never responded much to yelling so I don’t talk much on the field,” He says. “I really feel the best way is to lead by example. I’m quiet by nature so I try to let my actions speak for me.”
With Parks now in his second year as the starter at quarterback, Simon says he hopes to open up the Longhorn offense with more passing which should make Emans even a more dangerous player to opponents. “Tyler had to look at eight men in the box all last season because people knew we were going to run the ball,” Simon said. “If we can have some success passing this year, it should open things more for our running game.”
Although he admits to wanting to break the Harmony single-season and career rushing records, Emans does not consider that to be a goal. His focus remains team-oriented. “My main goal is to do whatever it takes to help this team get to a winning record and hopefully make the playoffs,” he says. “The stats do not matter if we are not winning games.”
Emans does have a long-run goal of playing college football and eventually pursuing a law degree. “Growing up we always watched a lot of Law and Order as a family,” Emans said. “I’ve always been fascinated with lawyers and courtrooms and law is something I could see as a career path.”