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Given a second chance, Tomlin looks forward to football again

Wesley Chapel freshman receiver Tyrone Tomlin has returned from an education center, where he was since November for a bullet-tossing incident.

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2000


WESLEY CHAPEL -- Following Wesley Chapel's Super Wildcat Ironman Test on Wednesday, former Pasco star Page Sessoms addressed football players at the second-year school.

"Everybody's going to face adversity in their life, but I fought through it," said Sessoms, who went from a backup safety at the University of Central Florida to a three-year starter at fullback.

Sessoms might as well have been talking one-on-one with Tyrone Tomlin, a freshman who is doing his best to overcome adversity.

Tomlin, a promising receiver whose football season last fall was shortened to seven games after his role in a bullet-tossing incident, has returned to Wesley Chapel and is practicing with the football team. He was suspended in November and attended classes at Moore-Mickens Education Center in Dade City until the end of April.

"I was happy," Tomlin said of being reunited with his classmates and friends at practice.

There wasn't much happiness on Oct. 21 for Tomlin. The student-athlete was arrested that day, charged with throwing a .22-caliber bullet that discharged in a hallway at the school. He was subsequently suspended and attended Moore-Mickens without incident for two semesters. Tomlin was allowed to return to Wesley Chapel for the fourth semester, which allowed him to rejoin his teammates for spring football practice.

At the time of his suspension, Tomlin led all Pasco County receivers with 22 catches for 344 yards and four touchdowns. And he scored the first touchdown (an 89-yard slant pass from Spencer Honeycutt) in school history.

Tomlin wants to make a bit of personal history next season by making all-conference and getting through his sophomore year without a hint of trouble as a student. The latter goal stems from a lesson learned at Moore-Mickens.

"They taught me to stop and think for the actions I make," Tomlin said. "I knew I could have hurt somebody and I want to let everybody in the community to know that I'm sorry for (the bullet-tossing incident).

Tom McHugh, an assistant at Wesley Chapel who served as Weightman Middle School's coach, said Tomlin is more confident than when he last saw him. McHugh has no doubt Tomlin has changed since the ordeal.

"I think it's probably a good thing it happened to him when he was younger than older, because it wouldn't have as much impact on him," McHugh said.

Tomlin has had his share of backers in his corner. That list includes Weightman language arts teacher Patty McHatton, who helped an eighth-grade class publish a school newspaper in the spring of 1998. The idea came from Tomlin.

"He was the spokesman and person who started it all up, but he didn't want the limelight," McHatton said. "Tyrone is kind of shy."

The Wildcat Times, McHatton said, "wouldn't have happened if he hadn't initiated it. I think he has a great deal of leadership ability."

Judging by the Ironman results, that is a quality that carries over to the gridiron. Tomlin, who finished fourth in last fall's Ironman test, won it on Wednesday.

"I wanted to prove to my coach that I could do it," Tomlin said.

Wesley Chapel coach John Castelemare is well aware of Tomlin's athletic prowess, but is quick to point out that the teen's maturation must be an ongoing process.

"He's got to behave, that's the hard thing," Castelemare said.

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