Wilson knew what to do with Big Bacon

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in Wednesday’s print edition of The Herald-Times and HeraldTimesOnline.com.

Maybe they didn’t see it. Or maybe they didn’t know what to say.

The Division I football coaches that passed through Euless Trinity High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex last year all wanted a look at Tyler Natee, Trinity’s large and lumbering quarterback. But they had questions — ones that even they struggled to answer.

He can’t play quarterback at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, can he? Can he affect the game enough at running back? What about defensive line? Could he put his hand in the ground and get a push?

“Any recruiter that came in here was very, very intrigued about Tyler and what kind of special athlete he was with his size and what goes along with it,” Trinity coach Chris Jensen said. “But it came down to this. It seemed like they just didn’t really have the guts to go back to their head coach and answer the question, ‘What’s he gonna play for us?’”

Kevin Wilson was different. Where other coaches saw a puzzle, Wilson saw an opportunity.

That’s how a 270-pound former quarterback nicknamed “Big Bacon” landed at Indiana as a do-it-all skill player in the Hoosiers’ backfield.

“Basically, we just had to remove the middleman and get the head coach’s nod on it,” Jensen said

Wilson’s nod came one day last November when the Indiana coach had time to kill on a recruiting trip to Dallas. He was there to recruit Cisco Community College quarterback Richard Lagow, but his meeting with Lagow wasn’t scheduled until later in the evening.

To make the most of his trip south, Wilson checked in with a few area recruiting connections and asked them each a question.

“Who’s the best player around that nobody is really recruiting right now?” Wilson asked.

Wilson’s connections pointed him toward Euless, a town of approximately 53,000 located in between Dallas and Forth Worth. So that’s where he went.

Trinity’s program competes at the 6A level — the highest in Texas high school football — and compiled a 10-1 record in 2015 with Natee at quarterback. They year prior, Trinity played in the 6A regional final.

During his trip, Wilson tried to get Jensen on the phone, but couldn’t. Instead, he drove over to the school to find him. A two-hour meeting ensued, one that Jensen said he won’t forget.

“He goes, ‘I don’t think a lot of assistant coaches are selling him to the head coach.’” Wilson recalled. “I said, ‘Let me see the tape.’ And he’s basically doing a lot. It wasn’t a Wildcat offense, but in his running style he’s basically like a Wildcat. He threw the ball. That’s why we threw it the other day with him (against Michigan State), we tried. He doesn’t have a bad arm. He had two years, I think 2,700 yards total offense.”

Natee, too, recalls his initial meeting with Wilson as an eye-opening experience. Wilson pitched him a special package tailored to his big and unique skill set.

And if you’ve watched either of Indiana’s last two games, you’ve seen it put to use.

After scoring his first college tocuhdown on a goal-line carry against Wake Forest, Natee carried the ball 10 times for 38 yards against Michigan State on Saturday. He converted a pair of third-down situations, including one four-yard gain in the fourth quarter that extended Indiana’s second touchdown drive.

Natee primarily works with IU’s running backs, but he’s also available as a zone-read quarterback and as a fullback, too. Although he won’t be a dedicated quarterback at this level, it was his background at the position that made Wilson comfortable extending as many responsibilities as he has to the freshman.

Clearly, with Natee seeing the bulk of his work against Sparty in the second half, Wilson has placed a high amount of trust in him.

“Because I played quarterback, and I was in that role where I had to lead and lead my team from behind, I have those leadership qualities that can help my team later on.”

Already, he’s helping as a change of pace option in IU’s deep stable of running backs.

Natee finished seventh all-time at Trinity with 3,000 rushing yards on 337 attempts — an 8.9 yard-per-carry average — with 25 touchdowns. Now that he’s recovered from a preseason meniscus injury, he’s punishing would-be college tacklers, too.

He delivered a few jarring blows to Spartan defenders on Saturday, embracing the nickname fellow running back Clyde Newton gave him during fall camp.

“We were in the meeting room one day and Clyde Newton was saying, ‘Big Bacon! Big Bacon!’” Natee said. “I was looking around like, ‘Who is he talking to?’ He was like, ‘You, Natee!’ I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll be Big Bacon.’

Natee weighed approximately 240 pounds last year at Trinity, and somehow added 40 more by the time Indiana’s preseason arrived in August. IU coaches would prefer him at 260 pounds, though he’s currently listed at 270.

“I came in heavier than what I was really supposed to be,” Natee said. “I had to get my mind right and really get to what they wanted me to be at so I could really invest in my role. Earlier in the summer, if you asked anyone on the team, they’ll tell you I wasn’t ready to play, like body, physical, anything. As I really progressed through the weeks and the summer, I had to get myself ready and really live up to the standard that they have for me and really embrace my role.”

And his nickname.

When Jensen recently learned that Natee was becoming a cult figure with a name to match, he chuckled.

“I’m a little bit frustrated that I didn’t come up with that name myself,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kevin Wilson is simply happy to have found Natee, who he sees as a major component to Indiana’s offensive success moving forward.

Wilson enjoyed the power game that Jordan Howard gave Indiana last season and, recalling his days as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Wilson remembered how fullbacks like Matt Clapp and Trey Millard gave his spread offense a different dimension.

“When we had that big back, we were a better team,” Wilson said. “And I just thought, ‘Hey, I’m the head guy making decisions, we need to have a guy like this.” And I saw his tape, I liked him. I met him. I liked the look in his eye.”

He’s Big Bacon, and after the rest of the country passed, he could be the future of Indiana’s offense.

4 comments

  1. I am glad Natee chose IU to play football. We will be privileged to watch him develop over the next few years into one of the premier backs in America. IU has another RB in the class that is extremely quick and a great compliment to Natee. As excited as I am about this year’s team looking at the group that has Natee and Gest in the backfield has a chance to be an exceptional offense. To go with this group, I am sure Coach Allen and the other D coaches will add a stud defense to go with this dangerous offense giving IU the best team they have ever had.

  2. I love this story. If Natee gets down to 260 or slightly less, with the power that comes from IU’s conditioning program, he’s going to be awesome in the years to come! Congratulations to Coach Wilson for thinking out of the box and making the best use of his time while on the road. Plenty more of those hidden gems out there. You just have to be open minded and creative enough to find them.

  3. PO, you are right about the hidden gems out there, it is just hard to find them within the 3 million or more that play high school football. I have a former player whose son is 6’5″ 285 lbs as a sophomore and is athletic enough to dunk a basketball. His dad and I are trying to get IU connected with him but he plays in Alabama, his dad is stationed at Ft Rucker. Right now he has a number of schools talking to him – Alabama, Purdue, etc He would be a great OL for IU and would be a great young man to have on the team. He has started since his freshman year so he is talented.

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