March 19, 2013 | 05:34 PMLYONS — "He has poured his heart and soul into football, and he has worked very hard for this."
Those are the words of Jill Cowan, mother of Lyons resident Ty Dennis, a Burlington High School senior.
You may remember Cowan as Jill Wallace, the all-time leading scorer for Badger girls basketball. Just like Jill, Ty is on his way to play college athletics, on the football field.
But "very hard" may have been an understatement. Ty defines dedication. He even missed his junior prom because he had a college combine the next day and didn't want to be tired.
It turns out that camp, held almost a year ago, was when Division 2 Minnesota State first recruited the 6-foot-3, 200-pound speedster, who earned 2012 first team all-Southern Lakes honors as tight end and defensive back.
In the last two seasons, Ty caught 55 passes for 1,145 yards and 14 touchdowns. That's a stunning 20.8 yards per catch. It wasn't uncommon for Dennis to catch a 10-yard slant and be off to the races for a 75-yard score.
A deadly combination of size and speed (he runs a 4.6 40-yard dash), Dennis recently signed with Minnesota State, who recruited him ever since that memorable combine. He will play wide receiver.
"A Friday night victory meant more to him than how many receiving yards or touchdowns he had," Jill said.
The ultimate team player, Dennis also was part of Burlington's recent conference-winning boys basketball team and was a second team all-conference basketball pick.
The Regional News caught up with Dennis to discuss life, football and the future.
RN: Why did you choose Minnesota State? Take me through the recruiting process.
TD: It all started last winter during basketball.
My Mom signed me up for NCSA and that's when I learned about the process and sent my film out to tons of schools. From that point, I was invited to camps at certain schools. I went to camps at Ball State, Iowa State and Eastern Illinois. I wanted exposure from all different levels of schools. Then summer wrapped up and the season started. I went to game day visits at schools that I have been in contact from the summer.
After the season, it was very stressful with countless phone calls and emails. I wasn't sure if any school would offer. Schools were coming in December almost every day. I still didn't have an offer. Then, the second week in January I went on an official visit to Mankato, Minn. (Minnesota State). They offered and I accepted. My mom started to cry, and the biggest relief was lifted.
MSU has been involved in the recruiting process since last year around May. I took a game day visit and was impressed. Back on my official visit, I saw more of campus and found out what it would be like. I had a gut feeling that this would be my school.
RN: What other schools did you consider? Any other scholarship offers?
TD: After the season, schools like University of Indianapolis, St. Cloud and Northern Michigan were really interested. Concordia-St. Paul offered after my official visit in December.
RN: When did you start playing football? Who was your biggest influence?
TD: Fifth grade. I really didn't have an influence, I just wanted to play really bad.
RN: Growing up with your family in the Lake Geneva area, why did you end up playing Sports and going to school in Burlington?
TD: We moved from Lake Geneva to Burlington/Lyons when I was in fourth grade. I could have school-choiced to Badger, but I really wanted to stay with my friends and play football and basketball at Burlington.
RN: As a multi-sport athlete, at what point did you get really serious about football?
TD: Spring of sophomore year I didn't go out for baseball because I wanted to make an impact on varsity football as a junior. So I started to lift with Jay Essman and other guys at our school. The rest is history.
RN: Who has helped you get to this point in your football career?
TD: Without my parents I wouldn't be where I am now. They have supported me emotionally and financially so I could be successful. I wouldn't be anywhere without my teammates, either. Strength-wise, Tim Corbett at Kenosha Personal Training and Cory at XTS have trained me along the way. Lucien Walker and House of Speed helped me get faster. With football the biggest jump of my personal skills was at the House of Speed football academy in Aurora, Ill., that was run by Don Beebe himself. It was great competition and practice going against defensive backs and catching passes from quarterbacks.
RN: Have there been bumps in the road? What did you have to overcome to get here?
TD: The biggest challenge for me this year was this past season actually. I felt like I wasn't getting enough opportunities. I ended up with 10 less receptions than junior year. So during the season I was frustrated because I felt like I wasn't helping my team.
RN: It was a great year for you. Playoffs in football, conference title in basketball. What was your most memorable moment?
TD: Nothing beat winning conference for basketball for the second time in a packed gym at home on senior night. Greatest feeling ever.
RN: Living in Lyons, it doesn't seem like there is much to do. What do you do for fun? Do you hang out with any friends in Lake Geneva or Lyons?
TD: I usually hang out with my friends from Burlington. Mostly guys on the team. Sometimes we hangout with kids from Badger, we all get along good.
RN: What are your goals for college football?
TD: My college football goals as of now are just to get stronger and faster so I am ready for spring practice since all freshmen red-shirt at Mankato unless needed. I also want to improve my quickness and route running.
RN: After you guys beat Waterford, you defended your teammate in the post-game handshake line after a skirmish. Why did you stick up for your teammate?
TD: Teammates are like family. If somebody messes with my family, I will support and defend them. With the Waterford incident, it was more of a heat of the moment reaction.
RN: Why do you love football so much?
TD: When you put that helmet on, and lace up the cleats. Something about it gives me a superhero feeling, and it's a team sport. It's really amazing to build a bond with your teammates.
RN: How hard will it be to leave your family and friends? Are you excited to be on your own?
TD: It think it will be hard at first, but it's a family atmosphere at Mankato. I am really excited just to experience everything.
RN: What do you want to major in at Minny State? What would be your dream job?
TD: I will major in education or Sports and exercise science.