Contributing to a dynasty

Carl Fonticella

Tyler Tupa keeps the Tupa football tradition alive, just on a different side of the ball

Tony Wolfe / Senior Writer

From the first snap they play, all football players dream of one thing: a Super Bowl celebration. Every player wants to be on the final team left standing at the end of the year — to have a moment that can be etched in sports history forever, to stand in the middle of a raucous stadium and feel like they’re at the center of the world.

On Jan. 26, 2003, Tyler Tupa experienced that firsthand with his family, having just witnessed his father, Tom, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. It was just four days after his fifth birthday, and it is the first memory he has of watching his dad play. That day, a silent competition formed between Tyler and his older brothers, Tommy and Tim, to see which one could reach that pinnacle next.

“That’s been our goal for all of us in our life,” Tyler said. “I think it helps having them because we push each other. It’s always been a competition, but we’re always supporting each other and always want the best for each other.”

It is that competition that has pushed all three brothers to earn spots on Mid-American Conference teams, the most recent of which being Tyler, who joined Ohio University as a freshman safety.

"It’s always been a competition, but we’re always supporting each other and always want the best for each other." Tyler Tupa

A Bond Forms

Their father earned the greatest individual recognition as a punter, receiving All-Pro honors in 1999 and making the Pro Bowl the same year. Before that, Tom made a name for himself as a quarterback on a state championship-winning Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School team in 1983. He made the USA Today All-American team in that same year, before going on to play at Ohio State, where he was named to the All-American team as a punter.


First team All-Pro NFL punter with New York Jets in 1999.
Played in 16 seasons with seven different teams.
Scored league’s first ever two-point conversion.

Despite that recognition, Tom didn’t shift to punting full time until his sixth season in the NFL. Once that transition was made, his career lasted 11 more years.

It was a lengthy and well-traveled NFL career. During his 16 seasons in the league, he played for seven different teams, meaning every time he joined a new team, the family would be forced to move a thousand miles across the country to prepare for a new season. Because NFL players often spend half the year in their team’s city and the other half in their hometown, that created a hectic lifestyle for a young and growing family.

The family said the busy travel schedule played a major role in bringing the family close together.

“When we traveled and lived in all those places, we didn’t know a lot of people,” Tom’s wife, Beth, said. “We moved about every three years when Tom would change teams. So we would move July through December, and once the season was over, I’d have to move the kids back to our hometown in Brecksville to get established in school in January. So (the kids) really only had each other for the most part to play with, because we would be in new places all the time.”

By the time Tom announced his retirement from the NFL in the spring of 2006, his children were already blossoming as athletes. Those genetic gifts didn’t come from just their father’s side, though. Beth, a native of Aurora, Colorado, was a professional cheerleader and dancer for the Phoenix Suns. In that spirit, Emma, the youngest in the family and only daughter, used to put together cheerleading squads for her brothers during their games. It didn’t take long, however, before she was moving onto basketball and volleyball careers of her own.


Native of Aurora, Colorado, graduated from Arizona State University.
Former professional dancer for the Phoenix Suns & dance instructor with the Universal Dance Association.

“She’s a very athletic girl,” Beth said. “She honestly would just get right in there with the boys’ games, and they never excluded her.”

Even after the moving stopped, the firm network of support didn’t. Although some might struggle to move into high school being known as the children of a local football celebrity, the Tupas took it all in stride.

“Being referred to as Tom Tupa’s son, it happened to all of us,” Tommy said. “But (Tom) instilled a lot of values in us and talked to us time and time again about how important it was to be your own person. We never let it bother us. We were proud our dad was able to accomplish what he did.”

Provided via Beth Tupa

From left to right, Tim, Emma, Tyler and Tommy pose for a photo.

Fittingly, it didn’t take long for all three sons to start putting together careers reminiscent of their father’s. By the time they graduated, Tommy left high school with the most prolific passing career of anyone since the school began keeping stats in 1993, Tim had recorded the highest single-season rushing touchdown mark in program history, and Tyler had become the school’s all-time leading receiver.


Former Miami RedHawks quarterback.
Holds Brecksville-Broadview Heights records in career pass attempts (750), completions (447), yards (5,751) and touchdowns (53).

They did all of this while playing for their father, who served as the team’s offensive coordinator throughout the boys’ tenure.

“I started coaching them in Pop Warner and then up through high school,” Tom said. “Obviously I had a lot more time and was a lot more active in that role. So, I enjoy it. I enjoy coaching all of the kids. It’s a way to spend time with them and bond with them.”

A Competition Revisited

Because of the talent all three displayed in high school, it didn’t take long for colleges to begin taking notice. As luck would have it, they all attracted attention from MAC schools, allowing all three of them to play close to home if they chose to.

"Being referred to as Tom Tupa’s son, it happened to all of us ... We never let it bother us. We were proud our dad was able to accomplish what he did." Tommy Tupa

Tommy was the first to leave for school, getting a chance to play quarterback for Miami University. Tim followed suit with a trip to the Naval Academy before transferring to Bowling Green to play as a receiver.

When it was Tyler’s turn, however, he chose to do something no one in the family had done before — he chose to play defense.


Redshirt sophomore receiver at Bowling Green.
Third in career passing touchdowns at Brecksville-Broadview Heights (25), first in single-season rushing touchdowns (19).

“I’ve just always been playing with older kids, so I’m hard-nosed,” Tyler, who is studying sport management, said. “I like contact. Growing up, kids were just beating on me all the time, so I think playing defense gives me a chance to hopefully beat on some other kids.”

That choice to play on defense wasn’t always easy, though. The first two offers extended to Tyler were from Kent State and Bowling Green, the latter of which would give him a chance to form a receiving combo with his brother. Neither offered him for safety, however, so when Ohio came along with an offer to play on Jimmy Burrow’s defense, the decision became clear.

“We’re looking for athletic guys that are tough, physical players that have change of direction and are smart,” Burrow said. “(Tyler) fits all of those qualities. I could just see the competitive nature of him in one-on-ones, and so far he’s proving us right. He’s done a nice job.”

Tyler joins a young Ohio secondary that features ten freshmen aside from himself. He’s also joined in the safety group by redshirt junior Grant Cunningham, a Brecksville graduate who played alongside Tommy and Tim in sports since they were small kids.


Ohio freshman safety Tyler Tupa poses for a portrait at Walter Fieldhouse.

“He’s gonna do well,” Cunningham said. “He’s already getting good reps as a freshman. Since I didn’t get to play with Tyler in high school, it’s pretty sweet. It’s good to see him really getting the opportunity.”


Freshman safety at Ohio
All-time leader in career receptions (174), receiving yards (2,885) and touchdown catches (38) at Brecksville-Broadview Heights.

Tyler’s decision also creates an unprecedented chance for the brothers’ competition to play out on the field. With Tim maintaining redshirt sophomore status at Bowling Green, the two will have an annual opportunity to face each other on the field — adding even more depth to what has always been the deepest rivalry in the family.

While Emma is focusing on other sports and Tommy is working toward a master’s degree at John Carroll University, Tim and Tyler are still battling on the football field. The latter were known to butt heads the most growing up, a perfect compliment to the other two’s laid-back temperament. Because of that, it is probably fitting that they are the final two left to play out the rest of their football careers in head-to-head competition.

“Me and Tyler are probably the most competitive with each other just because we played the same positions in all sports,” Tim said. “We were both point guards in basketball and then played the same position in football. As we got older and started playing on the same teams, it went from being a more competitive bond to just a brother bond.”


Sophomore outside hitter for Brecksville-Broadview Heights volleyball.
Earned honorable mention All-Southwest Conference.
Plans to play volleyball in college.

That bond best encompasses how the two play the game, with both Tyler and Tim bringing the same aggressive mentality to both sides of the ball.

“I don’t know if it’s gonna make it, like, a rivalry,” Tim said. “But it’ll be a fun game to compete against him.”

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