Tykel Landrum has zoomed around Nate St. Onge (12) and Talon James (88) of Reynolds, in 2015. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
By Pete Zamplas – Hendersonville three-way superstar Tykel Landrum will play for North Carolina this Saturday, against South Carolina senior all-stars in the 81st Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Landrum with his record 4,558 career receiving yards is among a mere handful of Western North Carolina stars among the 40 N.C. players. Landrum, Murphy quarterback Joey Curry and recent additions OG Jake Settlerlind and MLB Frank Torres of 3AA runner-up A.C. Reynolds join such standouts as MLB Dax Hollifield III of Shelby.
The N.C. head coach is Edneyville native David Gentry, the Murphy legend.
Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. is the venue, providing all-stars their largest crowd ever. The game benefits area Shrine Hospitals. A few tickets may remain, but often sell out.
“We’re going to play hard” with pride for North Carolina, Landrum vowed. Playing with other all-stars is quite a treat. “It’ll be a fun challenge, and a learning experience at the next level ,” Landrum said. “I’ve seen it before” in Shrine Bowl tryout combines, he said of the enhanced all-star caliber.
Landrum starred for HHS as a receiver, defensive back, and kick returner on 10-4 squads that reached round three of 2A playoffs in 2016 and ’17.
“We did as much as we could,” he reasoned about the playoff run that ended with a loss in the “war” at rival Mountain Heritage. “Everybody gave what they had. I wish we went farther.” He said a state title would have meant more than his many personal records. HHS won two playoff games and had double-digit wins for the first time since the 12-2 squad did so in 2012, under B.J. Laughter.
The most dramatic win was on the final play, to beat Pisgah 35-29 on Oct. 20. HHS’ Cole McMurray and Landrum blocked the Bears’ would-be winning field goal. Kalin Ensley returned it 67 yards to win it. Landrum said, “We never expected to win like that. You see that only in college football and the pros.”
Fitting the team’s 10-4 record, Landrum’s career takes a “ten-four, over and out” for HHS football. “We always have fun,” said of his athletic teammates. “I’m going miss them and Coach (Jim) Sosebee, when I leave.”
Tykel Landrum leaps to snare a pass against Brevard. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior is the basketball point guard, and best HHS base stealer as the baseball center fielder. He is grateful that as soon as football ended, he could transition right into the basketball season. “I always take it to the hole” driving to pass or shoot the ball. He excels in foul shooting. HHS won its first five hoops contests.
He likes football best. When he and the team get on a roll “you feel you can do anything, that you’re unstoppable,” he said. “You have to know you’re better than the person in front of you, not just think it — or you’ll get jammed, and beat up.”
Landrum is a dynamic, quick-cutting, open-field runner like Michael Vick. He wears Vick’s number seven, liking him as quarterback of the NFL Eagles. Landrum identified with Eagles when he had to play youth football with East Henderson Eagles, since Hendersonville’s own program was on hiatus.
Landrum is also spectacular in making leaping, acrobatic catches like Odell Beckham Jr. or vintage Lynn Swan. Impeccable timing and determination are keys. Even against larger foes Landrum is eager to “fight for the ball. I always have to win that fight.” And he usually does. He focuses not on an oncoming defender but “catching the ball, then getting as many yards as you can.”
“I like to hit people as well,” Landrum noted. “Tykel is such a warrior,” Heritage head coach Joey Robinson said after his team ousted HHS from playoffs.
As a cornerback, Landrum sees the enemy play develop and where the pass is heading. “I don’t hesitate. I don’t think about it.” He “has natural instincts to track the ball, and talent to apply those instincts,” Sosebee said. He said on offense Landrum kept getting “better in reading defensive coverages.”
Statistics reflect Landrum’s prowess. He is the WNC career leader in receiving yardage with 4,558. He averaged 1,412 receiving yards over the last three seasons. Landrum set several school records as a junior, such as with 14 catches for 364 yards in a 73-28 demolishing of Surry Central in round two of 2A playoffs.
Tykel Landrum cuts sharply around Reynolds’ Nate St. Onge (12) at the 10 yard line to score a long reception TD, when the swift stars were sophomores. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
His statistical peak was in 2016. He caught 96 passes for a WNC-best 1,775 yards (18.5 ypc.) and 23 touchdowns passes from Bud Williford, Landrum then snared 65 Williford passes for 1,246 yards (19.2 ypc.) and seven scores this year. Landrum’s getting double and even triple-covered helped enable junior Ensley to catch 19 TD passes.
Landrum was the leading HHS receiver as a sophomore in ’15, with 64 catches for 1,217 yards and 10 TD passes from Mike Schmidt. Landrum caught 28 passes for 320 yards and four scores as a freshman in 2014, when Cole Cleary caught 75 for 1,818 and 16 scores.
Williford finishes 2017 with 3,381 aerial yards, to snap his own HHS passing yardage mark of ‘16 by 20 yards. The senior threw for 36 then 34 TD passes, and reduced INTs from 18 to 15 picks. In ’17, he added 517 rushing yards (4.8 ypc.).
Williford and Landrum have timing from playing together for many years. HHS principal Bobby Wilkins commended both role models as sharp, reserved yet personable gentlemen in class and athletics. “They have such character. They’ll be great adults in whatever they do.”
Landrum set a WNC defensive mark with 11 interceptions in 2016. He has Bearcat and likely WNC-record 26 interceptions — six, five, 11 then four picks in his four varsity seasons.
He returned kicks for 636 yards, and interceptions for 384 more yards as he averaged 35 yards per pick and over 20 in other years. He ran back a WNC-record three interceptions (two against Madison) for TDs, and two punts for scores in ‘16. He totaled an amazing 28 touchdowns then — precisely two per game. “I get a chance to score on defense, whenever I pick the ball off,” he said.
Landrum made 55, 98, 95 then 67 (with 52 solo, and five for a loss) tackles. In ’16 he caused three fumbles and pounced on one, and made a sack. Then in ‘17 he returned four interceptions for 113 yards total, and caused a fumble.
His all-purpose yardage was a blistering 2,813 in 2016 as he averaged 201 per contest, then this year at 1,913 (136.6 ypg.) with over 100 each in all five categories in ’17. He ran the ball more often and better this year, averaging 10.3 yards per carry for 113 yards and four TDs rushing. He totaled 12 scores, including one pick six.
For ’16, he earned all-America (MaxPreps, pre-2017 for small schools) and all-state (NC Preps) status, and was Western Highlands player of the year.
“All the hard work pays off,” he once said of a road playoff win, to be prepared and to raise “confidence” and in turn ability.
“You’d never know he receives all those rewards,” Sosebee said. “He works so hard” starting with weights, and “leads by example.” Landrum said Sosebee excels in tactics and preparation, and he enjoyed the wide-open spread attack.
Landrum likes to “pick everybody up. I’m hyped up for the game. I want to be a leader.” He urges “c’mon, get ready!,” the offense to “finish” drives as coaches urge. When the defense was backed up, “we’d tell each other ‘we got to ‘work it.’”
Landrum likes to listen to hip-hop music. His football pre-game ritual has been not with music, but visual. “I watch my (video) highlights,” to envision what more he can do.
His parents are Penny Landrum and Raynard “Shay” Walker. Tykel’s sister Kiauna Beddingfield is in eighth grade, and into Hendersonville Middle basketball and track. Lennard Beddingfield, a year behind her, is into “the same sports” as Tykel, Tykel said. Tykel’s brother Zalen Watkins is in fifth grade, in Forest City.
Family and friends were at the playoff defeat, and supportive of Tykel, he said “They know I’m going to college,” to build his athletic career. His GPA is 3.4. He likes honors English best, and also civics. He eyes UNC, has had talks with smaller schools, and plans a sports marketing degree.
First, Landrum is eager to play for N.C. and David Gentry. “He’s a really good coach, and a good guy,” Landrum said of chatting with Gentry at Shrine Bowl tryouts. Shrine coaches choose the players. Laughter was a N.C. assistant in 2012.
Gentry led Murphy to two of his seven state 1A titles in the last half-decade. Murphy won the ’16 opener at HHS, so Gentry has seen Landrum in action.
Gentry has won more games than anyone in WNC football history. He is within seven wins of 400, and 20 to break the late Jack Holley’s state mark of 412 varsity football victories. Still, Murphy told The Tribune earlier this year he might retire after coaching his quarterback Curry and other all-stars. If so, Landrum and N.C. teammates will help close a special chapter.