Nick Tyson didn't have to wait until the preseason to try out for quarterback for the Hickory Ridge varsity football team.
The junior's audition came at the end of last season, when he was called up from the junior varsity to replace the Ragin' Bulls' injured starter.
Coach Marty Paxton thought Tyson did a quality job in 2 1/2 games, so he tapped Tyson as Hickory Ridge's leading man in 2011.
Tyson has responded with a record-breaking season, in which he led the Bulls to a season-defining win Oct. 21 over a Concord team that was undefeated in conference play at the time.
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Now quite comfortable in his quarterbacking skin as a high schooler, Tyson almost gave up football when he was switched to the position in middle-school.
In sixth grade, Tyson used to suffer from migraine headaches. Doctors suggested they might come from playing football, and Tyson was switched from his natural defensive back position.
He split time at the position during his middle school career at C.C. Griffin.
Figuring his main sport was baseball anyway, Tyson was ready to quit football. Only after a phone call from Paxton did Tyson start to attend summer workouts. As a Hickory Ridge freshman, he made it through another season splitting time at quarterback.
During his sophomore season, when he became a true starter, Tyson's game started to open up. He accounted for 27 touchdowns on the JV team, and Paxton was letting him dress on Friday nights as an eight-quarter player.
Tyson was on the sideline when starting quarterback Jason Eury went down with an injury against Concord last year. Tyson finished that game, a loss to the Spiders, then started in the regular-season finale win over Jay M. Robinson and a close 21-18 playoff loss to A.L. Brown.
That was enough for Paxton to make a decision for the following season.
"We had already talked to Jason Eury about moving him back to receiver," said Paxton. "And he was very excited. Jason would have done anything we wanted him to do. There was no doubt that (Tyson) was going to be our quarterback."
In the second game this season, against Waxhaw Cuthbertson, Tyson threw for a school-record 227 yards. During an early-season three-game win streak, Tyson completed 34 of 56 passes for 443 yards and five touchdowns.
Though Tyson's play was steady, Hickory Ridge lost its next three games by a total of five points, including a three-point overtime loss to Mount Pleasant. After a disastrous 47-0 loss to Kannapolis, the Ragin' Bulls' season hung in the balance.
A 21-0 Monday night win over China Grove Carson - in which Tyson completed 11 of 18 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns - helped right the Bulls' season. In the same week, Tyson threw for a season-high three touchdowns in a 28-26 upset of Concord.
"We had a great game against Carson and a great couple of days of practice after that," said Tyson. "I probably had the best feeling I've had this year going into the Concord game."
A regular-season-ending 20-0 victory over rival Robinson helped clinch Hickory Ridge's third straight state playoff appearance. Tyson accounted for all three Ragin' Bulls' scores, rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another.
Through the regular season, Tyson completed nearly 59 percent of his passing attempts for 1,253 yards, a school record, and rushed for 218 yards. He scored eight rushing touchdowns and had 11 more in the air.
Tyson and the Ragin' Bulls ended their season against Charlotte Catholic Nov. 4. But he'll look to use the experience garnered this year to help Hickory Ridge his senior season.