Ready for anything

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

It would be easy to say Steven Jyles is lucky to be starting for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday.

Luck, however, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it.

He’s a quarterback who is mature beyond his years, partly due to mistakes he made as a teenager and also because of the way he was raised in Louisiana.

While the specifics of his life won’t really matter when he straps on his helmet to face the Eskimos, it’s the lessons learned along the way that will help the 27-year-old guide the Bombers into battle.

“I don’t want the guys to feel like they’ve lost already,” Jyles said. “I’m sure they don’t, but going into this game I’ve prepared hard and I just want to come out and light it up for them.

“Regardless of the situation, if Buck (Pierce) comes back next week or what, I just want to go in and be productive for them.”

From the outside, it looks like Jyles has a resting heart rate of about 12 beats per minute, which he attributes to spending the first six years of his life in quiet Greensburg, La. Population: 618.

“I grew up with the cows, horses, goats, chickens and pigs,” said Jyles, the oldest of five kids. “… I hung out with a lot of elderly people, and they were kind of laid back. They didn’t really stress about anything, and I was just kind of like that.”

Because of that, he seems like the perfect pivot to have in the huddle when things get hairy.

You want hairy? Try fathering two sons with two women before the end of Grade 11, which Jyles did while attending Glen Oaks High School in Baton Rouge. His oldest son, Steven, is now nine, and Jyron is eight. Both live with their mothers, but Jyles said he has “great” relationships with them and sees them when he goes home in the off-season.

The first time it happened, in Grade 10, Jyles’ father Ronnie put the kibosh on all sports. It was time for his kid to raise a child. When Jyles missed spring football and went into a funk, his mom Sheila convinced Ronnie to let their son play one sport as long as he kept his grades up and worked to support his child.

“I truly believe I was too young to realize how serious it was,” he said.

Jyles woke up at 5 a.m., took his son to daycare, attended class himself, went to football practice and then worked at Burger King until midnight. He picked up shifts whenever he had free time.

Talk about growing up quickly. He credits his dad, a carpenter, for instilling a tireless work ethic in him.

“I was just going off him, what I saw him doing,” Jyles said. “He worked every day and kept us with food. It wasn’t that much, but he provided for us.”

When he got another girl pregnant, well, that didn’t go over too well, either.

“My mom was like, ‘Come on, son. Did you learn from the first one?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, mom. I took every precaution,’” Jyles said with a chuckle. “I was just fortunate that (the mother) was still respectful to the fact that I wanted to go to school and I wanted to do something to better my life for my kids.”

On the field, Jyles was a star. He was a linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver in Grade 9, a safety and third-string quarterback in Grade 10, a safety and backup quarterback in Grade 11, and the starting quarterback in Grade 12. He was also an all-state punter.

He picked off 13 passes in Grade 11, so most universities wanted him to play safety. Nick Saban, then the head coach at LSU, even came to Jyles’ house to deliver his pitch. Jyles, however, wanted to be a quarterback, so he chose the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“I like scoring more,” Jyles said. “My sophomore year of high school, there was a shovel pass and I picked it for a 95-yard touchdown. People never talked to me at first. Then it was like, ‘Hey, you’re the young guy who scored that long touchdown!’ And it was on T.V. I’m like, ‘I like seeing that on TV.’ I wanted to get back to scoring.”

So Jyles went to ULM and broke nearly every school passing record, but he never forgot about his kids. He kept putting money from one of his scholarships into a bank account back home. His mom had access to it and would give money to his sons’ mothers when they needed it.

Jyles broke into the CFL in 2006 with Edmonton thanks to Paul Jones, the Eskimos’ director of player personnel who is based in Monroe, La., and convinced him to come north after he was passed over in the NFL draft.

Jyles is now with his third team in his fifth CFL season and is earning a six-figure salary. He is married to Ashley, with whom he has a two-year-old son named Dylon, and they will be at Canad Inns Stadium on Saturday to cheer him on in his second pro start.

You could say he’s lucky to be there, as the chances of getting out of his tough Baton Rouge neighbourhood while fathering two kids as a teenager are usually slim to none.

You could also point out that the mothers of his children obviously helped him tremendously, doing most of the parenting over the years.

But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Jyles has worked hard for everything he’s gotten. And that’s what he wants his kids to know.

“My whole mindset wasn’t to play pro football, to be honest with you,” Jyles said. “I just wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what college was like. I just knew I needed to be there.

“And I’d like to thank my dad, because my dad never talked to me about how hard it was going to be. No, he didn’t. He led by example.”

Now Jyles is the one doing the leading, both on and off the field. He’s proven he can do it in life. Now is his chance to show he can do it on the field as well.


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