Considering the family tree, it should probably come as no surprise that Tyler Walsh has emerged as a force for Oswego.
“My dad [Ryan] played on the 1992 [Class 4A] state championship team,” said the 5-9, 185-pound senior running back.
The younger Walsh has piled up 1,279 yards rushing on an area-high 235 carries this season in helping lead this year’s Panthers to the quarterfinals of the Class 8A playoffs.
Oswego plays on the field turf at Marist 7 p.m. Saturday night, looking to advance to a semifinal date the following week against the winner of the Naperville Central-Neuqua Valley quarterfinal.
“His dad was my teammate on that 1992 team,” said second-year Oswego head coach Brian Cooney. “I played linebacker and [Ryan] had my back as a defensive back.”
Those lifelong friends went on to play at Aurora University for Ryan’s father and Tyler’s grandfather, Mark Walsh, who was then an assistant to Jim Scott.
“I recall Brian [Cooney] running around our house in our Cub Scout pack,” said Mark Walsh, the current AU head coach and athletic director emeritus. “I think [Cooney] and Ryan have been friends since they were six years old. And I recruited six kids off that [1992 Oswego] team.
“It’s a real special thing. I’m proud of Brian and what he’s accomplished and I’m really proud of my grandson and glad that I get to see Tyler play for [Cooney].”
Tyler Walsh started on defense at strong safety last season for Cooney’s team and saw limited duty on offense, getting 24 carries and gaining 87 yards. This year, he averages 21.4 carries per game.
He’s also caught 13 passes for 307 yards receiving and in spot duty on defense has a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown against Plainfield South to give him 1,628 all-purpose yards.
“Remember, he was behind an all-state running back last year in Mickeel Stewart (207 carries, 1,335 yards),” Cooney noted.
Walsh has emerged as a workhorse.
“I just like his perseverance, his hustle and grit. He has the ability to put his foot in the ground and move around [defenders] or lower his shoulder and take them on,” Cooney said. “He doesn’t avoid contact. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the first or 30th carry of the game.”
Walsh had a season-high 35 carries for 170 yards in the first-round playoff win at home against Hinsdale Central. Grandpa didn’t get to see that one because his Spartans were playing on the road that day in Sheboygan, Wis.
He’s only missed two of Tyler’s games, though, and AU plays at home at noon Saturday so he’ll be able to make the Marist game.
“I’m gonna go home and get iced, and start watching video for next week with my dad,” Walsh said of his post-game plans after Hinsdale Central. “We work together a lot.”
His dad’s AU career was cut short by a neck injury in his junior year.
“Ryan is loving this [Oswego playoff run],” Mark Walsh said.
Cooney even called on him this season after the Week 2 loss to Waubonsie Valley to address the players at a Thursday team dinner leading into Week 3.
“It’s a weekly tradition to have someone with ties to the program to come in,” Cooney said. “We haven’t lost since [Ryan Walsh spoke].”