ST. PAUL, Minn. — Will Tye was the first Stony Brook University player to make it to the NFL. It only makes sense that he is the first Seawolf to make it to the Super Bowl.
Tye, who played two seasons with the Giants and started this season with the Jets, is on the Patriots’ practice squad. That makes him ineligible to actually play in the big game on Sunday — unless, of course, the Patriots need an extra tight end. Their starter at the position, Rob Gronkowski, remains in the concussion protocol (although all indications point to him being cleared for the game).
“It’s amazing,” Tye said of the experience of being at Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday, standing on the arena floor at Xcel Energy Center. “Everything I do I know is for Stony Brook. Anything I did previously is for them and for anyone who was told they couldn’t do something.”
The Patriots don’t have much depth at tight end behind Gronkowski. They have veteran Dwayne Allen, signed after five seasons with the Colts, who caught only 10 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in his first season with New England. They also have rookie Jacob Hollister, undrafted from Wyoming, who had four catches for 42 yards this season.
The Patriots claimed Martellus Bennett off waivers during the season, but he quickly landed on injured reserve.
That leaves Tye as the only other tight end in the Patriots’ system.
Tye, who played college ball at Florida State before transferring to Stony Brook, was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He made his (and his alma mater’s) NFL debut on Oct. 4 that season. In his time with the Giants, he started 17 games and caught 90 passes for 859 yards and four touchdowns.
Tye was in training camp with the Giants last summer before being claimed off waivers by the Jets. He played in three games, with one start, and caught four passes for 38 yards before they waived him. The Patriots signed him to their practice squad on Oct. 12.
Being on the practice squad can be a thankless job. With the Patriots, where everyone has a role, it is considered an important one.
“They do a great job,” Bill Belichick said earlier this month of the 10-man group. “They help the team prepare for the game. They improve their individual skills and at some point those players may be needed.”
Tye said that’s exactly what he has done. He thinks he may have a future with the Patriots, a team that does not keep players around — even on the practice squad — if they don’t serve a purpose. He’s dropped about 14 pounds from his frame since his first year with the Giants, down to 248, and he feels lighter and more athletic.
While he clearly is not satisfied with being on the practice squad, Tye did say it’s better to be at the Super Bowl than almost anywhere else.
“I thought I’d be watching it on the couch with friends and eating chips or something,” he said. “I’ll take this any day. Any day.”