COLUMBIA — Brevinn Tyler looked at the empty hallway to his left and gave it a dismissive wave. It was hours after Battle High School's second Monday of classes, and Tyler, the school's first-ever quarterback, had just finished practice.
"Freshmen look like ...," said the 14-year-old sitting on a bench, stuck on his words.
Coach: Justin Conyers (1st year)
Returning starters: N/A
Friday: vs. Kansas City East, 8 p.m.
Sept. 6: vs. Hannibal, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Butler, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: vs. Carnahan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: vs. Gateway Tech, 1 p.m.
Oct. 4: vs. South Callaway, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: vs. Jackson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19: vs. Normal (Ill.), 2 p.m.
Oct. 24: at Troy Buchanan, 7 p.m.
He shook his head. He waved.
Midway through the summer when Tyler was selected as the Spartans' command behind center, he understood fully what coaches meant when they told him he couldn't be a freshman.
Heading into the team's home kickoff Friday night against Kansas City East and Battle's early molding of a legacy, Tyler has to be the miniature force, the barely 5-foot-9-inch core of the huddle as he was in practice Monday, sun blazing down with his shadow stretched to his side.
Coaches shouted a barrage of plays, and Tyler looked his huddled teammates in the eyes. He relayed the message and took the snap to initiate everything unfolding around him.
When practices began June 3, it didn't take Tyler long to decipher the playbook. It was like any other form of study for Tyler. He holds a 3.85 GPA and is technically a second-semester freshman because of the upper-level credits he compiled before arriving at Battle.
"I think he’s got his mind set on what he wants, and he knows that he's gotta get it," said his mother, Sara Tyler. "Football is his priority, but he knows the grades have to stay up to par."
At Battle, Brevinn Tyler was one of 21 from his class selected to be a part of Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college readiness program for accelerated students.
"He's beyond his years in maturity, and that's big," said Battle's head football coach Justin Conyers. "With this position and with the publicity he’s gonna have with this, he’s got a lot on his shoulders. Not only is he the first quarterback of Battle High School, but he’s also a freshman. So a lot comes behind those two things."
It's the position Brevinn Tyler fiercely desired since he was an eighth-grader at Oakland Middle School, eager to make an impression at Columbia's new football program.
Brevinn Tyler marked his calendar as soon as the football practice dates were announced.
"I came in with the mindset that I wasn't gonna let Coach have any reason for me not to start," he said. "I wanted to come in like I was a senior in high school."
Conyers had watched Tyler before in YouTube videos as he steered Oakland's 6-0 season last year with a quick-trigger arm and fast-trotting feet.
It wasn't all ability that stood out to Conyers at those games, though.
"You could tell then and there," he said. "The kid was a leader."
Spartans junior captain Marshall Willingham, formerly of Hickman, recalls "seeing something ridiculous" on the scoreboard whenever Oakland played at Hickman's Alumni Stadium.
"You think about a freshman, you worry about the growing pains of a program and how he runs the team," Willingham said. "But coming in, there’s been no doubt about Brevinn. Nobody has any feeling that he’s a freshman."
Perhaps Brevinn Tyler's age is veiled by his easygoing personality, his breezy yet monitored attitude. He has a confidence on the field, too, appearing cool even in front of Battle's packed stands at Friday's jamboree scrimmage against Rock Bridge and Hickman. He made his debut by throwing a touchdown on the team's first drive against the Bruins.
"For him, it doesn't seem like there's a lot of pressure," Conyers said.
Sara Tyler says she's bracing for whatever she might hear sitting in the stands.
"It's hard for me to be in the stands when I hear people talk bad about him," she said. "I do worry about the pressure that he faces. But he handles it with such grace."
Brevinn Tyler cradled the ball firmly, finishing Monday's sprints after practice.
"You have a very unique opportunity," Conyers told his team. "Twenty years from now, you're going to be called ... the team that got the school's first win."
He told players to head inside to the weight room, where the first logos featuring the charging gold Spartan would be stamped on their helmets.
Tyler was waiting to have his done. He was smiling.
"I'm pretty lucky and humbled for the situation I have right now," he said.