Stony Brook's football team had an unexpected visitor at Tuesday's practice when Giants tight end Will Tye dropped in on his day off to share the excitement of his role in the Giants' 27-23 comeback win over San Francisco on Sunday night. Tye became the first Seawolf to make an active NFL roster the previous week at Buffalo but had his first four NFL receptions for 48 yards on NBC's national telecast to put SBU's football program on the map.
"It was Sunday Night Football," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. "If it was said one time, it was said six times: 'Will Tye, Stony Brook University.' You can't pay for that marketing and exposure. It was just awesome.
"I was so proud of him. He took a huge risk when he left Florida State. But he took advantage of the risk. The last two years, he was my favorite guy on the team. He went to practice every day and loved practice. I think that's what the Giants probably saw was a guy who went after it in practice. He would never go slow."
Tye spent two seasons at Florida State, where he struggled to find playing time behind Nick O'Leary and others, before transferring to Stony Brook in 2013. Over two seasons, Tye caught 79 passes for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns for the Seawolves. The Middletown, Connecticut, native made the Giants' practice squad as an undrafted free agent.
He was placed on the active roster and made his debut at Buffalo, where he dropped the only pass thrown to him. Considering his fringe roster status, he easily could have returned to the practice squad or even been cut.
"Somebody told me that, and I was like, 'Really?' " Tye said. "Because in practice, I don't drop anything. So I figured, 'All right, come the next game, I'm ready to go. This next week coming up is another opportunity.' And I was ready."
Tye's three first-half receptions against the 49ers all went for first downs, and he added a fourth reception deep in San Francisco territory during a touchdown drive for a 20-13 Giants lead in the second half.
After the game, Tye received some encouraging words from Giants quarterback Eli Manning. "He said, 'That's crucial. That's big right there. Do that again next week. Just keep on being consistent, and you'll be fine,' " Tye said. "I said, 'Hey, I'm ready for it.' "
It was difficult for Tye to leave a national powerhouse like Florida State in order to get playing time at the FCS level. But now he's a professional step ahead of former Seminole O'Leary, who was drafted in the sixth round by Buffalo and now is on the Bills' practice squad.
"Coming here, I knew I had a lot of help and support from the coaches," Tye said of Priore and his staff. "It felt like the right situation for me. I liked it and the coaches liked it and it all worked out, definitely."
Tye's return to Stony Brook on Tuesday was a joyful occasion as he accepted congratulations from his former teammates and coaches along with some ribbing from Priore about joining a touchdown dance by Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham.
Asked about being the NFL groundbreaker for the Seawolves' football program, Tye said, "It feels real good. I know I've got the whole team still rooting for me, the fans here, the administration, coaches . . . It was real important to show I could be out there and to show that, no matter where you come from, if you have talent and work hard, you can get the job done."