By Barry Gwinn
Tyler Gresham is going into his junior year at Marco Island Academy. It will be tough to top his sophomore year there.
Last year, Tyler, as fullback, was the leading rusher on the MIA football team. He also played middle linebacker on defense. During the winter and spring, he starred on the basketball and track teams. In the classroom, Tyler finished the year with a weighted 3.65 GPA. Tyler doesn’t load up with creampuff courses, either. His schedule included a number of honors and AICE courses. AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education) is written and overseen by the University of Cambridge in England, ranked as one of the world’s top five universities. As with honors courses, these classes cover more in depth and advanced material. The courses may require independent research. This is an improbable resume for all that Tyler has been through.
Tyler grew up in Goodland, and is fondly remembered by all who knew him. He lived here until April 2014 when, at age 15, he moved to Marco Island. By all reports, he was an upbeat, feisty kid who loved to fish, work out, and play pickup sports with his friends. All whom I talked to agreed that Tyler stayed out of troublesome situations, and seemed to be welcome everywhere.
Tyler Gresham and at MIA’s main Entrance (above). SUBMITTED PHOTOS[/caption] alt=”B16-CBN-9-18-15-5″ width=”200″ height=”251″ />Tyler sure made friends at the local Goodland restaurants. They made certain that he didn’t start or end the day hungry. The local restaurants knew that Tyler’s home life was unsettled, and that he was not always able to get breakfast or dinner at home. “I liked to start the day with a good breakfast,” said Tyler. The Margood restaurant (now a museum at Margood Park) and Sandy Bryson were glad to oblige. Sandy Bryson recalls making special cooked-to-order breakfast sandwiches for Tyler, a service no one else got. Sandy found Tyler to be polite, respectable, and upbeat. “He was a totally likeable boy,” she said, “I was always glad to see him.” Nikki Bauer, of the Little Bar, and Shelly Balante, of the Olde Marco Lodge, made sure he got a hot meal later in the day. All of the food was on the house for Tyler.
In the endless summer of Goodland, Tyler spent his days with friends, riding dirt bikes and having paintball fights at the boat park (then a vacant lot). The boys would come home with welts on their arms and bodies. The lot was big enough for baseball games, too. Football games were played on Ray Bozicnik’s vacant lot on Pear Tree, down the street from the post office. Thegang consisted of Zach Burgess, Reilly Doxee, Colton Couture and Tanner Prange.
Tyler’s first love was fishing. He and Tanner Prange did a lot of it. Every morning at 10:00 would find them fishing in the Marco River at the Pink House Hotel. Jim Prange recalls that the Coon Key Marina would set them up with fishing poles and bait. He and Tanner would then load the stuff onto Tyler’s borrowed golf cart and head to the river. They caught some grouper, which were bigger than they were.
Goodland is an idyllic setting, and in many respects, reminds me of Tom Sawyer’s hometown on the Mississippi. I have previously reported that a youngster is fortunate to grow up here. Most of our Goodland alumni have done well. Our own Goodland Scholarship Fund gives our kids a hand up for post high school education. If you were a fly on the wall in Tyler’s homes, you wouldn’t have bet on a happy ending, however.
Tyler recalls living in a succession of rented places while in Goodland. “My dad struggled with drug-related problems and had trouble holding a job,” Tyler said. “My mom suffered from drug addiction and would come and go. Sometimes I was left alone.” Tyler can vividly recall ugly confrontations between his parents. “I have to say,” said Tyler, “throughit all, my dad stuck it out and made sure I got to school every day. I will always love my dad for this.” Somehow, Tyler was able to get mostly A’s and B’s at Tommie Barfield Elementary (TBE) and Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS). Tyler also found out that he was a pretty fair athlete.
At age 10 or 11, Tyler decided to push himself to see how good he could become. “I wanted to be the best athlete I could be,” recalls Tyler. He started a regimen of pushups and sprints, running at night so that no one would see him. Someone did see him, however. Tadpole Ellington, getting in late from fishing, stopped Tyler as he was running by. Ellington’s words cut to the quick. “What are you doing, little kid? You’re too overweight to run,” Ellington told him. It was true, said Tyler; “I was getting chubby from eating too much.” Remember all the breakfasts and meals he had been getting from big-hearted Goodland restaurateurs?
The remarks “made me pretty mad. It like lit a fire under me,” Tyler said. Tyler recalled what was written on the back of his dad’s high school football picture, a picture that he keeps handy to this day. He resolved that he would never, ever deviate from his dad’smotto – “Push to be the best and nothing less.” His dad had been a pretty good high school football player. Tyler often mentions his debt to his dad.
Thereafter, the pounds dropped off, even as the muscles grew. Tadpole Ellington found Tyler to be a remarkable youngster, “because he was never in any trouble, even though there was trouble all around.” Ellington is not surprised that Tyler is doing so well today.
Alicia Cameron is another Goodland resident who recalls a young Tyler Gresham running up the Goodland Bridge. “It was quite remarkable really, that a youngster would put himself through this every day,” said Alicia.
Academically and athletically, Tyler was getting it done. Then, when Tyler was 13, the bottom dropped out. Tyler said that his mother was sentenced to prison for probation violation, and ended up in Homestead State Prison. “I visited her there once, but she didn’t recognize me,” Tyler said. Then, Tyler’s dad left and Tyler was alone. Shortly after this, Tyler’s Uncle Harvey showed up and told Tyler to pack his things. “Your life’s going to change,” his uncle told him…
Barry was a practicing attorney before he worked as a Special Agent of the FBI for 31 years. Barry worked for several government agencies another ten years before retiring to Goodland in 2006. Barry is presently the Secretary of the Goodland Civic Association.