Tyler Erwin '00 Selected for 2019 Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Tyler Erwin '00 Selected for 2019 Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Rich McGill watched as the quarterback got pancaked to the cold turf over and over on that bitter night in Laurel in 1994. It was the Class C2 state championship game and Cambridge jumped on Laurel early and often, blitzing almost every play in a game that ended 73-28. But the quarterback never complained, and McGill, who was a referee during, told the QB he was blowing the whistle in hopes to protect him. At some point during halftime, McGill mused, “Man is that quarterback from Laurel tough,” and that couldn’t have proved to be more true

Neither one knew it at the time, but the gritty quarterback would be one of the toughest, most dedicated basketball players McGill coached in his time at Midland University.

Tyler Erwin felt like Midland was a good fit from day one. His father and aunt had attended Midland, he enjoyed the feel of the small campus and appreciated how McGill gave him the opportunity to prove himself. His freshman year tested his grit. “I walked in thinking that I was a pretty good high school player and I got the shellshock of being a freshman and I’m like, alright, I have to prove myself again,” he says.

Midland went through ups and downs the next two years as Erwin solidified his bring-the-lunch-pail mindset to do “all the little things that coach couldn’t take me off the floor.” McGill says, “We had guys who could jump higher, run faster but he just forced himself into playing time with his work ethic.” 

Even as a freshman, his work ethic caught the attention of the entire team as he won the Midland Teammate of the Year award. The award is an internal award voted on by the players, and it’s not necessarily given to the team’s best player, but rather “Who do you want with you? Who do you want right beside you?” Erwin says. He went on to win the award all four years, the first player in the program’s history to do so, so McGill named the award after him. Earning the recognition and admiration of his peers is his proudest achievement as a Midland basketball player. “As a leader you lead by example, both on the court and off the court” he says. “It’s not always taking the most popular route, but rather the doing what is most needed at the time.”

McGill said the leadership Erwin displayed both on and off the floor as a captain alongside Eric Eddie amounted to having another coach on the floor or in the locker room. “I didn’t really have to worry about locker room issues or anything like that,” McGill says. “Those two guys took care of it.”

Erwin’s biggest moment on the court was in the Nebraska-Iowa Athletic Conference tournament championship game during his senior season. The season had started off slow but the team went on a run and hosted Hastings in the championship. In an epic back and forth game that Erwin considers one of his worst offensive performances -- “I remember talking to our coaches and they’re just like, ‘Tyler, you gotta shoot it. Just keep shooting, it’s going to go in,’” Erwin says -- he hit a dagger of a 3-pointer in the corner that effectively clinched the win and sent Midland to the NAIA Division II National Tournament. “He had the courage, the guts, whatever you want to call it, he was open and he didn’t hesitate and he knocked her down,” McGill says.

After he graduated in 2000, McGill gave Erwin an opportunity that would change the course of his life. Erwin was still living in Fremont painting houses when McGill asked him to coach Midland’s junior varsity team, which Erwin accepted and split his time working in the university’s admissions office. Erwin jokes that McGill wanted him to coach so he could drive the bus on road trips while McGill and the other coaches played cards, but he is thankful for how his time as a player and JV coach launched his coaching career.

After stints as an assistant coach at both the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Erwin eventually landed a spot on the staff at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2009, where his leadership skills and work ethic have continued to pay off.

During his time at UNO, Erwin had helped oversee the Mavericks transition into the Division I level and has seen the program win 66 games over the past four seasons and twice play in the Summit League championship game.

Erwin will get a chance to face his alma mater when the Mavs and Midland face each other in an exhibition game on Nov. 7 at Baxter Arena.

He is proud his accomplishments have earned him the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. “I’m humbled,” Erwin says. “It makes me think so far in my life ‘doing the next thing right’ continues to pay off.”