DALLAS - Tyler Chapel Hill running back Matthew Tucker just finished his second 2,000-yard season and is headed for TCU, the college home of LaDainian Tomlinson.
Not that they doubted him, but Tucker's coaches weren't sure what would become of him when he was a sophomore. They said he wasn't nearly as strong, nor as fast, as the player who Tuesday was named the offensive player of the year on The Associated Press Sports Editors Class 3A all-state team.
"We knew he'd have a chance to be successful and be pretty special," said Tyler Chapel Hill assistant head coach Matt Langley. "As far as how special, a lot of it depends on how much work they're willing to put in. It didn't surprise that he was willing to do all those things."
Tucker didn't stop trying to improve himself after rushing for about 2,300 yards his junior season, when he was honorable mention all-state. He dedicated himself to the football team's summer workout program and went through special speed training on the side in Tyler.
The result was 2,260 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine games and a final total of about 2,700 yards before Chapel Hill was bounced in the second round of the playoffs by Waco La Vega, a 3A Division I finalist.
"It was an incredible year," Langley said. "Just to get prepared for the season, he worked incredibly hard. He was super driven all through the summer."
The only problem was the way the season ended - a 56-8 loss to La Vega that squashed hopes of riding Tucker and eight other senior starts on offense to the school's second state title. Among the other seniors was Kendrick Robinson, a first-team all-state offensive lineman.
"He was very disappointed, just like all the rest of our kids," Langley said of Tucker. "We had a lot of kids that played a lot of football together and liked being around each other. That closeness makes it fun, makes it special. But it also made it hurt a lot when it was over."
Chris Whaley of Madisonville was a first-team running back for the second year in a row. The senior had 1,910 yards and 24 touchdowns in nine games.
Liberty Hill, which lost in the 3A Division II semifinals to Celina last weekend, had two first-team offensive linemen in seniors Justin Bates and Brandon Terry.