We’ve added this special category in recent seasons based on all of the all-state football nominations we receive and this year’s choice to be the Most Inspirational Player on the 2016 All-State football teams is Tyler Stow of Scotts Valley. The Santa Cruz County standout set league passing records this season, but did it with a heavy heart following the sudden death of his stepfather last spring. Tyler already had dealt with adversity watching his father, Bryan, lie in a coma for nine months after being attacked by two fans at Dodger Stadium.
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A quiet evening of watching TV with his mother and stepfather last April turned into a horrific experience in an instant for Scotts Valley High football player Tyler Stow.
Tyler’s stepdad, Sammy Kain, was sitting in his chair when he was hit with a massive heart attack. He was not a small man at 6-foot-5 and approximately 250 pounds, but Tyler and his mother, Jackey Kain, lept into action. They were able to get Sam onto the floor. With an ambulance on the way, Jackey quickly started chest compressions. Tyler then took over when it looked as if his mother was tiring.
All efforts to save Sammy, including those of the paramedics, unfortunately did not work. He died from the heart attack in the living room, which may have been brought on by medicines he was taking from a recent testicular cancer diagnosis. He was only 49.
Tyler already knew he was going to be Scotts Valley’s starting quarterback as a senior, taking over for graduating senior Nick Reyes. He told head coach Louie Walters literally on the night that his stepfather died basically right in front of him in whose memory he would be dedicating his season.
“From that point on, in the midst of everything else in his life, there was not a day that went by that Tyler wasn’t working toward the season,” said Walters, who has been Scotts Valley’s head coach since the school opened in 1999 and fielded the first team with strictly sophomores in 2000. “I think it may have taken his mind off of the grieving process, but he was lifting and working every day. And I think the team knew what he was going through and they rallied around him.”
“My stepdad was an awesome influence on me,” Stow said. “One lesson he always instilled in me was patience. When there’s a temptation to get upset about something, he’d say take a step back back. That helps a lot.”
Stow was very little when his mother and father divorced, but it’s obvious what trait Tyler learned from his father: never giving up when there are difficulties. And his father has faced difficulties hard to imagine.
Tyler Stow, you see, also is the son of Bryan Stow, who is a longtime San Francisco Giants’ fan who went to opening night for the 2011 season at Dodger Stadium to see the Giants play the Dodgers. After that game, Stow was attacked by two other fans and wound up on the ground with a serious head injury. He also had other facial injuries from the beating, which included being kicked in the head.
The incident drew nationwide attention and there were rumors of more trouble erupting the following week when the Dodgers went to San Francisco. Both organizations helped quell further incidents, but Stow remained in critical condition.
“When I practiced and it was hot outside and I was struggling, I’d think about him and how much worse it was for him,” Tyler said. “He was in a coma for nine months and woke up not knowing what happened. He had to re-learn how to do everything. Knowing what he’s done allows me to push past the limit of what I thought was difficult.”
Stow’s Senior Season
Perseverance from pops and patience from Sammy on their own probably wasn’t enough for Tyler to have the senior season for the Falcons that he enjoyed. Inheriting some athletic ability from mom may have been equally important.
Jackey, who also grew up in Scotts Valley, was a Division I college athlete herself in softball at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and also is currently the head coach of the Scotts Valley girls team, which last year was in the CIF Central Coast Section Division III playoffs.
“She’s gone through so much that most people just could not bare,” Tyler said of his mom, who cleans houses for a living in addition to coaching softball. “She’s given up everything for myself, my sister (Tabatha) and my brother (Mathew, Sam’s son).”
The season began with back-to-back losses, but the second one was by just 22-21 to a Carmel team that went on to go unbeaten in the regular season. Stow led a comeback effort and a possible game-winning two-point conversion pass was dropped by an open receiver in the end zone.
With the confidence of that outing at his back, Stow led Scotts Valley to wins in every one of the team’s Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League games except a 21-14 loss to Aptos, which has become the league’s dominant team since veteran head coach Randy Blankenship began coaching there several years ago.
In two of his league games — against both San Lorenzo Valley of Felton and Santa Cruz — Stow broke and then tied the school record by throwing five touchdown passes. He also set several league records and had 18 TD passes in league games.
By the end of the overall season, which ended at 8-3 with a CCS Division 5 playoff loss to eventual champion Half Moon Bay, Stow had 1,932 yards of passing with 25 TD passes. One of his teammates, senior receiver Ryan Johnston, also was outstanding after being a non-starter as a junior. He finished with 50 catches for nearly 1,017 yards and 17 TDs. Stow and Johnston were named Co-Offensive Players of the Year by the Santa Cruz Sentinel with Aptos’ Joey Riccabona chosen as overall Player of the Year.
“We have never had a kid make an impact like that who was a non-starter from the season before at any position,” Walters said. “He was dealt a hand that the average kid just does not get dealt. For him to even have played at all would have been an inspiration to all of us.”
Words of Wisdom
For Tyler to provide advice on overcoming adversity to his fellow teens is one thing, but his father is amazingly doing that as well.
“He’ll never be the same, but Bryan can get around now and just last week he gave a talk at Watsonville High,” Walters said. “He’s actually very funny and can remember things that happened 20 years ago. It’s his short-term memory that doesn’t work very well.”
Possibly because of his own experience in inspiring others, Stow said he plans to study kinesiology for two years at Cabrillo College and then head to a four-year university. His eventual goal is to work as a personal trainer, but he admitted he might be interested in coaching.
Any thoughts of continuing to play football are in his rear-view mirror.
“If you were to have a problem, like with a girl or with a bad grade or anything, first take a step back and evaluate the situation,” Stow said if he had the chance to talk to other student-athletes from around the state. “Look around you. Somebody else somewhere else has it worse. There’s just so much poverty and hardships.
“After that, it’s easy to simply push yourself harder and then third use that experience to inspire others.”
Thanks, Tyler, there are a lot of adults that could use that type of inspiration as well.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports