When K’Vaughn Tyson got to high school in mid-2015, his football jersey number had already been decided.
“I was actually at the beach before my freshman year, when they were picking jerseys,” he said. “My teammates called me and said, ‘You got No. 2.’
Of course, he did.
Tyson didn’t think he’d get that number, however, since seniors traditionally get to select their numbers and he hadn’t played a meaningful down of varsity football yet.
“But they just had my name marked down already,” Tyson said.
Of course, they did.
At Alcoa, if your last name is Tyson and you play football, you get the deuce.
The jersey tradition has its genesis in the late 1980s, though it kicked into full gear in the early 2000s. And since 2007, a Tyson has occupied the No. 2 jersey every season for Alcoa — and likely will, at least, until 2020.
THE ORIGIN OF THE 2
The Alcoa High School football program owns 16 state championships, the first of which came in three consecutive seasons (1977-79). The Tornadoes returned to the state final in 1988 but came up short. They won their fourth state title in 1989 and didn’t win another until 2000.
One of the key players in that two-year spurt in the late 1980s was Shannon Mitchell.
The 1990 Alcoa graduate signed with Georgia, where he was a four-year starter at tight end and blew up as a senior with 49 catches for 539 yards. His 15-catch, 140-yard performance against Florida in 1993 set a single-game receptions record.
Mitchell went on to play four years (1994-97) with the San Diego Chargers, which reached the Super Bowl his rookie season. He is often one of the first names mentioned when it comes to debating the best Alcoa football player of all-time.
His jersey number – 2.
The number had no meaning to Mitchell at that time. By his own admission, he and some of his teammates wanted to pick low numbers because it looked cool, thought it made them standout. That was a trend then, back when college superstars like Deion Sanders sported the No. 2 jersey at Florida State.
The jersey No. 1 was off limits, Mitchell said, at that time because that was Willie Lundy’s number. Lundy won the first Mr. Football Award in Alcoa history, the 1985 Class 2A Mr. Football.
So, No. 2 it was for Mitchell. A little more than a decade later, it sparked a family and Alcoa football tradition.
“I’m definitely humbled,” Mitchell said. “I would have never thought that 30 years later, No. 2 would have such meaning to my family.
“We each have had our own contribution to the Alcoa football family.”
THE TRADITION OF THE 2
From 2002-2018, save one season, a member of Mitchell’s family has worn the No. 2.
Dustin “Duck” Lindsey kick-started it in 2002. Lindsey was a monster running back/linebacker who led the Tornadoes to Class 2A state titles in 2004 and 2005. Lindsey, a cousin of Mitchell’s, was the championship-game offensive MVP in 2004 with 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns, as well as 144 yards receiving and a touchdown on six catches. He added three more touchdowns in the 2015 finale.
He wore No. 2 during his prep career, and that left an indelible impact on his cousin Taharin Tyson, who would be entering Alcoa as a freshman in 2007 and taking on the jersey number in honor of those who came before him.
“It’s just one of those things when you have greatness ahead of you, you want to follow in those footsteps,” said Tyson, who’s 25 now and an aspiring football coach, “but put your own foot in those footsteps and make it your own.”
Linebacker Bart Hicks bridged the one-year gap in 2006 when no Mitchell, Lindsey or Tyson occupied the jersey. Hicks was a worthy player. After all, he won the 2005 Class 2A championship defensive MVP award, wearing No. 44. He repeated that feat the following year, wearing No. 2, with with 17 tackles as a senior in the 2006 championship win.
Taharin Tyson played immediately as a freshman in 2007, as future Green Bay Packers star wideout Randall Cobb led the Tornadoes to a fourth consecutive state title. Cobb played quarterback and corner. Tyson logged five carries for 25 yards in the 2007 championship and spearheaded four title runs. But it wasn’t until the third quarter of Alcoa’s 2010 Class 3A championship win over Goodpasture that Tyson logged his first title-game touchdown.
Still, his 2-yard run with 6 minutes, 49 seconds to play put the Tornadoes ahead 42-7, helped them capture a seventh consecutive state title and capped his playing career with a 58-2 mark.
One night after he ended his prep career with a title, Taharin Tyson committed to Chattanooga, which made the No. 2 available to him on their roster. Tyson wore that for four years playing for the Mocs.
It’s more than just a digit to him and his family.
“We like wearing that No. 2. We take a lot of pride in it,” said Tyson, who also helped lead Alcoa to wins over rival Maryville in 2009-10. “You put that on our back, we’re going to do what we got to do.”
His cousin Jaquez Tyson came through next, playing for Alcoa from 2011-14. An all-state tailback with 4.5 speed, Tyson proved to be a big-time asset for the Tornadoes.
He cemented his place in family and Alcoa football lore when he ran 49 times for 278 yards and three touchdowns in a 25-7 win over Christ Presbyterian Academy in the 2013 Class 3A championship. He also caught Alcoa’s only passing attempt on that blistery cold day: a 10-yard pass from Peyton Wall.
Those 50 touches, obviously, won him the game’s offensive MVP.
He ran 27 times for 142 yards in the 2014 finale won 7-0 by CPA.
Nevertheless, he holds his own in the family debates over who was the best to wear No. 2. And these debates happen frequently. Mitchell, Lindsey, Taharin Tyson and Jaquez Tyson are all cousins.
“The Mitchells, Lindseys and Tysons — we’re all pretty tight,” said Jaquez Tyson, who went on to sign with Chattanooga and later the University of the Cumberlands. “After that season, honestly, every award I got didn’t mean anything until all the 2s before me got together and said that I was probably the best one.”
Tyson said they wouldn’t admit that publicly, but he’s “quotin’ ‘em on it.”
“I don’t get into the argument with the teams,” Jaquez Tyson added, “because they had some pretty stellar teams. They won more state championships than me. Numbers don’t lie. I only got one ring when it comes to teams.
“But if they want to talk personal stats, we can do that all day.”
THE FUTURE OF THE 2
K’Vaughn Tyson has pulled down the No. 2 jersey over his head and suited up for Alcoa since Jaquez graduated. And he’ll do the same Friday night, as Alcoa (3-0) plays its chief rival Maryville (3-0).
He enters the game as the team’s leading rusher (18 carries, 176 yards, five touchdowns). Taharin and Jaquez have been his primary mentors and trainers.
“They’re more like father figures to me than anything,” K’Vaughn said. “They teach me a lot. I’m going to listen to them, of course, because they’ve been there and they were good at it.”
But even if Alcoa goes on to play for or win a fourth consecutive state title, Tyson knows his days wearing the 2 are dwindling. He’s trying to cherish every moment and hopes to wear the same number in college if he gets the opportunity to play.
“I’ve been No. 2 since I was in Grasshoppers, since I was 7,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to wear No. 2. I wanted to be like my older family members. When I was in Grasshoppers and Pee-Wee, I was a waterboy for Taharin and them. I always saw Taharin wear it, and I always wanted to be like him.”
But sometimes, there aren’t enough 2s to go around. Alcoa’s roster this year features Jaquez Tyson’s younger brother Solomon, a sophomore defensive lineman who wears No. 21. Shannon Mitchell has two sons on the squad: senior linebacker/tight end Shannon Mitchell (No. 30) and junior lineman Elijah Mitchell (68).
Regardless of who gets the No. 2 jersey next fall, the Mitchells, Lindseys and Tysons will be at Alcoa games in full force to support them — just as they will Friday at Maryville.
“We come about 20 or 30 deep,” said Taharin Tyson. “We’re out there, man. Even extended family comes out. … Everybody’s going to be there.
“It’s going to be a family occasion.”
Just like the jersey.