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YC's Moreno, McKinney sign with Graceland University
One of the first friends Tyler Moreno ever made in high school was Everett McKinney.
Over the past four years, they have become good friends as well as teammates as part of the Yuma Catholic football team.
And while college can sometimes cause friends to drift apart, Moreno and McKinney are making sure that doesn't happen. The pair have both signed letters of intent to play football for Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, this fall.
“It's a small town, probably like 2,500 people,” Moreno said. “Everyone knows everyone — kind of like Yuma.”
Moreno and McKinney are the only Shamrocks who have been signed other than Tommy Pistone — who signed with Arizona Western College.
“I'm proud of them,” YC coach Rhett Stallworth said. “I'm proud of them for the fact that they're willing to go out of state. We've got a lot of kids that could go play college football, but you've got to be willing to leave that comfort zone and get away from home and that's a hard thing to do.”
The two football players will report to Yellowjackets camp on Aug. 9 and travel almost 1,500 miles to their new stomping grounds.
“It didn't really matter how far I went,” Moreno said. “I just wanted to get a good education and continue to play football.”
Formerly a linebacker, Moreno will play strong safety for Graceland — a transition his former coach doesn't believe he'll have much difficulty making.
“I think it's a little bit of a change for him but not a whole lot,” Stallworth said. “He's been playing outside linebacker for us to begin with. For a kid like that — he's a natural — it'll go easy for him. He's just natural football player, he's got a nose for the football and that's something that you can't teach.”
The opportunity to accompany his friend across the country as well as play college football was something that McKinney just couldn't pass up. Playing college ball is just the next chapter in the Cinderella story that is McKinney's football career.
“To be honest, I don't know how this happened,” McKinney said. “It seems so unreal. ... I went from getting on the bench and then I finally got to get on the field. Then I became a starter and then I became a pretty good starter.
“It seems like baby steps and now I'm going to play college football. I hope that I can turn that hard work into something else in college and keep progressing.”
As a Yellowjacket, McKinney will continue to play wide receiver. In his senior season, McKinney excelled at this position and Stallworth said he believes he will only get better.
“I think it's a testament to how hard he's worked,” Stallworth said. “If he continues to work as hard as he did for us, he's going to be a player out there as well.
“These two are taking a big step into the next phase of their lives to secure their education. I'm pretty proud of them for doing that.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6880. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSErinRedmond.