Coach happy to be in Greenville
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
When one door closes, another one opens.
For Tyler Wynn, the former two-sport standout at Troup High, that cliché became reality this year.
For the past four seasons, Wynn has been the head football coach at River Ridge High in Cherokee County.
Following a difficult 2019 season, Wynn found out that he was out of a job.
The timing was poor, since just a week before he and his wife Brittany adopted a new-born baby.
As painful as that blow was to Wynn, who’d been at River Ridge for nine school years, he did not allow it to deflate him, especially since he considered the adoption such a blessing.
Earlier in the year, the two had an adoption fall through, and fortunately they didn’t have to deal with that disappointment again.
“A week before I was asked to resign, we get a phone call and they said we’ve got a baby for you,” said Wynn, who now has three children. “God gives you what you can handle. He knew as a family we couldn’t handle me losing my job, us losing the adoption, all the same time. So I think God gives and takes. He said I’m going to give you this, now can you trust me with this. He’s shown that he’s very redemptive, and it’s been great for us.”
Wynn, with his supportive wife to lean on, was on the job market for the first time in a decade.
Wynn knew he wanted to continue to coach, to keep leading and hopefully inspiring young men, he just had to find a place to make that a reality.
As is the case after every football season, numerous jobs come open as coaches, for whatever reason, leave their schools.
One of those openings was at a school, and in a community, Wynn was very familiar with.
Vex Farley, Greenville’s head coach since 2013, moved on following the 2018 season, and the school set out to find his replacement.
Wynn threw his name into the hat, hopeful of not only landing a new gig, but also of returning to a part of the state that means so much to him.
When the selection process came to a close, the school decided that Wynn was the right fit.
Wynn happily accepted the job offer, and when Greenville opens its season on Aug. 30 against Lamar County, he’ll lead the team onto the field.
Wynn inherits a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011 and has a 6-24 record the past three years.
“It’ll be a challenge, but we’ve got good people around,” said Wynn, who’ll also be Greenville’s athletics director.
Wynn is familiar with the history of Greenville football, and he has great admiration for one of the program’s all-time great coaches. Jeremy Williams was Greenville’s head coach from 2002 until 2010, and he had a 55-40 record. In 2008, Williams was diagnosed with ALS, but he continued to coach, even as the disease took its toll and confined him to a wheelchair.
In 2009, with Williams leading the way, Greenville enjoyed one of the best seasons in the history of the program, posting an 11-1 record.
Williams stepped down following the 2010 season, but he continued to fight and inspire others.
Wynn recalls watching a show featuring Williams and the challenges he faced, and he was moved by it.
“I remember the first time I watched it. His wife said, you know God this is what you’re handing me. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to jump up in your lap and you’re going to have to carry me,” Wynn said. “That made an impression on me then, and it’s still something that does.”
Wynn knows what it takes to succeed on a football field.
During his high-school days, Wynn was a play-making quarterback for Troup, and he led the team to an 11-2 record as a senior in 2003.
In a memorable second-round playoff game that year, Wynn threw a game-winning touchdown pass in the closing moments of a 24-21 victory over Bainbridge.
Following high school, Wynn headed to Carson-Newman with the intention of being a two-sport athlete, and he was for a while.
Wynn was a starter on the baseball team, and he was also a member of the football team.
After his initial school year at Carson-Newman, Wynn decided to focus on one sport.
“After my first year on the field with football, I went in and met with coach (Ken) Sparks and asked what were the plans for me,” Wynn said. “I knew I was going to start 45 games in baseball. And he agreed with me and he told me you need to play baseball. So I stepped away from football.”
Wynn went on to enjoy a fantastic baseball career that included a senior season in 2008 where he hit .358 with five home runs and 33 RBIs.
With a college diploma in hand, Wynn returned home before embarking on his nearly decade-long stint at River Ridge.
“As soon as I graduated from Carson Newman, I went back to Troup, and spent one year with Bubba (Jeter),” Wynn said. “My wife and I were getting married, and we wanted to start something new, so we moved up to Cherokee County, and I was at River Ridge for nine years.”
After four seasons as an assistant coach, Wynn became the head coach in 2015, and he held that position for four years.
The 2018 season was a rough one for River Ridge, which went 1-9, but Wynn was bullish on the program’s future.
“I knew going into this last season that it’d be tough because we were starting 18 underclassmen, very few seniors,” Wynn said. “I hated it for those kids. It was a tough year to get through. But I learned from it. It’s one of those where I’ll take that situation and I’ll handle it a little differently next time.”
Wynn added that “I was going into last year with 18 kids that were underclassmen, and we were going to build this thing up, and next year we’ll be pretty good.”
Wynn, despite the one-win season, was confident he’d be back for another year, but during a meeting with the principal in December he got the bad news.
“I’d been there for nine years, and I’d invested a lot in the community, and a lot in those kids,” Wynn said.
Still, Wynn reflects fondly on his time at River Ridge.
“It was a good spot, and we enjoyed it up there, but I’m glad to be back,” Wynn said.
Looking back over the past year, it has been an eventful and at times difficult time for Wynn, but he’s still standing, and everything has worked out nicely.
“I would never wish for a failed adoption. I’d never wish to lose your job, but it’s been good, because I got to see God through it,” Wynn said. “It was very trying, but it’s been good for both of us.”
The one constant over the past decade in Wynn’s life has been Brittany.
The two had a pair of children together, son Cam and daughter Austyn-Claire.
Following the birth of Cam, the two were informed by the family doctor that it would be best if Brittany not have any more children.
“My wife had complications with Cam,” Wynn said. “The doctor is a good friend with us, and he sat down with both of us and said look, if I were you, this is what I’d do. And we were fine with it. We’ve got a boy and a girl, and we walked away and we were fine.”
Their parenting journey was a long way from complete, though.
When Wynn first suggested the idea of adopting to his wife she was hesitant, but Brittany soon embraced the idea.
“A little over a year ago, my wife looked at me and said I think we need to adopt,” Wynn recalls. “She said what do you think? So we filed the paperwork and did everything.”
They went through the process, and after dealing with the painful disappointment of a failed adoption, they welcomed Dax Wynn into the home, and a family of four grew by one.
Wynn had hoped the whole family would be in the stands to support him for the River Ridge season opener in August.
Instead, Brittany and the kids will be at Greenville’s stadium on Aug. 30 as Wynn begins this new journey.
Brittany isn’t a coach, but Wynn considers her an unofficial member of the staff.
“You’re only as good as your wife, and Brittany handles just about everything,” Wynn said. “She’s a mom to these boys. If a kid needs laundry done, she’s Going to do it. She’ll make sure he’s got something to eat if he needs it. She gets it. She’s all in.”
While making no predictions about what’ll happen this year and beyond, Wynn is hopeful the previous experiences he’s had as a coach will benefit him.
“They say you learn as much from losing as you do from winning,” Wynn said. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but you learn what you can handle.”