Note to Readers: This is the final part of a five part series on Ty Storey’s return to Fayetteville to play against his former team as quarterback of Western Kentucky University. The series concludes after yesterday’s Razorbacks game with Western Kentucky.
It was a story that needed to be told. It was about a former Charleston great and former Razorback coming back to Razorback Stadium to play against his former team. It was also about it being the second time a former Charleston player both played for and against the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. But, “Ty’s Story” has also been about the proud people of Charleston who take pride in their community and their children, and about the love and appreciation both men have for what Charleston has done for them.
“Ty’s Story” has documented how two Charleston greats overcame adversity and went on to achieve great things. We shared the story of Steve Cox and how his desire to play at the University of Arkansas did not come to fruition out of high school, but when opportunity presented itself; he was able to take advantage and make the most of it. Saturday, Ty Storey capped his comeback from his own bout with adversity and overcame it, returning as quarterback of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
And the story of Mr. Joe Dick Burt of Charleston, touched my heart, as well as many who have read “Ty’s Story.” Mr. Burt, a great member of the Charleston community, a man who served his country, and gave back so much to his community and the children who grew up there, and who is so dearly missed by so many in that community.
On Saturday, the final chapter of this story was written, and Ty Storey wrote the final chapter Saturday by overcoming the adversity he was faced with at the University of Arkansas. The class and integrity he showed when things had to be so bad for he and his family, and to go to work and make a success of himself at Western Kentucky University is a true testament to Ty and his family. On Saturday, Ty entered Razorback Stadium, along with his WKU teammates, and he had the game of his life.
Of all of the parts to this series, this one has been the most difficult for me to write. So many thoughts have raced through my mind. So much to process.
I had the privilege of being on the field at Razorback Stadium on Saturday for the expressed purpose of photographing Ty’s experience of returning to play against his former Razorbacks teammates. On a day that meant so much to so many people: Ty, his family, Steve Cox, and the Arkansas fans who love Ty and struggled with conflicted feelings of rooting for Ty even though it meant rooting against their Razorbacks, I found myself highly emotional at different times of the day.
It was a beautiful day at Razorbacks Stadium, and Ty was playing today. At halftime, the Razorback band played a tribute to the military. The final song, “America”, was a beautiful presentation of the song by the Razorback band. My mind wondered. I thought about Mr. Joe Dick Burt. Oh, how much I and the many people who knew him and loved him, wished he could have been in the stadium this day to watch Ty play. On the final note of “America”, I found myself having to wipe away the tears. I spoke by messenger with Dana Storey Crenshaw who was with many others of Ty’s family at the stadium. We were talking about how happy we were with the day Ty was having, and she shared, “Just wish Mr. Burt was here.” Later that night, I spoke to Steve Cox, and I shared this story. Steve shared with me that maybe there was more to it; maybe that was Mr. Burt. Maybe he was at the stadium today. I believe his memory and spirit were there Saturday, to watch his favorite team, and one of his favorite players and sons of Charleston play in his finest moment.
One year ago this month, Ty took a moment from his pregame warm-up to take a photo with Mr. Joe D. Burt. That short moment that Ty shared with Mr Burt, was mentioned in my interview with Mr. Burt. Mr. Burt shared that seeing Ty that night was the greatest night of his life. Ty took time to think about Mr. Burt from his warm-up before he started the game against LSU.
On Saturday, Ty again broke away from his warm-up to take a photo with Steve Cox. Ty mentioned earlier that Steve sends him motivational texts occasionally, and he is someone whom Ty looks up to. And again, Ty Storey took a few moments to be with Steve, just as he did a year ago with Mr. Burt. I took their photo, and it is at the top of this article. Two great men, and two men whom I admire. Thank you both for letting me be a part of that moment.
Ty is a true champion. Ty’s family are champions. Champions face adversity head on, and that’s what Ty and his family did. They never complained or criticized. They accepted that sometimes things are beyond your control and don’t work out. But they regrouped, formed a new plan, and set in motion that plan with a lot of hard work. Ty returned Saturday to the place where he was told that he did not factor into Arkansas’s plans for this year. And Ty Storey had the game of his college career. That is what true champions do.
When Ty took the field today, he was focused. I could see it in his face. He looked determined, yet at ease with his surroundings. I watched him in warm-up, during the coin toss, and throughout the game. Anyone who had the privilege to see him close up today as I did would know that Ty was going to have a good day. His team was playing for its sixth win of the season to make them bowl-eligible. That’s what Ty’s mission was on Saturday. His mission was the team’s mission. He was not selfish, using this game as a chance to bark at his former team or its coaches and divert his focus from helping the team win. He is a team player, a leader. And against the Razorbacks, he tore apart the Arkansas defense with his precision passes and his solid leadership of the WKU offense.
Ty passed for 213 yards and one touchdown Saturday versus the Razorbacks. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes. He completed 22 of 32 passes and averaged 6.7 yards per completion. He had no interceptions on the day. His longest completed pass was for 69 yards. The WKU offense scored 35 points on the Razorbacks in the first half. Storey led the Hilltoppers on scoring drives of 42, 75, 59, 73, and 68 yards. WKU coach Tyson Helton said after the game, “You couldn’t write it any better. It was a heck of a story. He was locked in from the get-go. He wanted this one really bad. Thought he handled it to perfection.” (quote from WPSD Channel 6, Paducah, KY).
After the game, Arkansas coach Chad Morris was one of the first to leave the bench to look for Ty. Coaches typically seek each other out at the end of the game to shake hands. From the crowd and confusion in the middle of the field, I cannot say if Morris and Helton shook hands at first. But I did witness Coach Morris very quickly coming out to mid field asking, “Where is Ty Storey?” And then he and Ty met and Coach Morris exchanged some very nice comments with Ty. Immediately afterwards, Ty was engulfed by many, if not all, of his former Razorbacks teammates. They all shared comments, and embraces, all of whom greeted Ty warmly. It was apparent to me that the Razorbacks players love Ty, and it made me wonder if Ty’s departure from the team is still having a carry-over effect with the Razorbacks with respect to their morale, not just Ty’s loss as a quarterback. I have no way of knowing that, but, I must say it made me think.
Ty was asked after the game what playing against his former team meant to him. In classic Ty Storey fashion, he replied, “It was good to come home. It has been so long since I have been here. Moments like this, to get to share it with these guys (his ex-teammates) has been awesome. We came out and I thought we executed really well, put up 35 points in the first half, and tried to play it a little conservative in the second half kind of like you have to, and it was good. A good win for us. I am excited to keep playing (qualified for bowl eligibility with the win) and have the opportunity to keep playing for a couple more months with these guys.”
In Ty’s post-game comments, he focused on his team, paid respect to his former team, and kept his focus on the WKU goal to win the game and go to a bowl game. He did not take the opportunity to take shots against Arkansas, when in today’s athletic world, many players in Ty’s position would have done so. Ty is a class act. As Steve Cox put it, Ty is a winner. Plain and simple.
So, for me, this wonderful story and experience comes to an end. For Ty Storey, his story is just beginning. As irony would have it, the Razorbacks honored another Arkansas quarterback on this same day of Ty’s return. Brandon Allen, who had his own struggles as a quarterback at Arkansas, was on the field Saturday for recognition by the fans. Allen has been a success story of his own and just recently started his first NFL game. On this day, Ty, after his own adversity at Arkansas, was completing his road back to success as a starting quarterback. My mind again began to wonder, is this the path Ty will take after he finishes at WKU? Will we be talking about a great college quarterback who’s integrity and great work ethic will see him earn an NFL roster spot? Well, I would not wager against Ty. He has proven that over the past five years. Ty Storey is a winner, a true champion, and I believe he will get his opportunity to go to an NFL camp and show the coaches what he can do. He will work hard, and if anyone can make a roster spot having gone through what Ty has, it will be Ty Storey.
“Ty’s Story” has been a blessing in my life. I had the opportunity to visit with Ty Storey on the phone and make new friends with his family. I reconnected with a lost friend of over 40 years from the 1979 Razorbacks football team. I had the honor of knowing Mr. Joe Burt, although it was for only a few minutes in our interview.
But I also want to thank all of the readers who have read “Ty’s Story” and who have been so gracious and kind in their comments. Your feedback has been overwhelming, and you will never know what they have meant to me and my family. My faith tells me that God made all of this possible, bringing so many people together, and I feel very blessed.
Thank you all so much for reading “Ty’s Story.”
Dedicated to the Memory of Mr. Joe D. Burt
Longtime Razorbacks Fan
Longtime Inspiration to So Many People in Charleston, Arkansas
The Resident Press would like to thank the following who contributed and made this series possible:
Buddy L Bond, Charleston
Bill Burt, Charleston
Joe D. Burt, Charleston
Steve Cox, Charleston High School, University of Tulsa, University of Arkansas, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins
Howard Gossett, Charleston
B. J. Ross, Athletic Director, Charleston High School
Ty Storey, Charleston High School, University of Arkansas, Western Kentucky University
Dana Storey Crenshaw, Charleston
University of Arkansas Sports Information & Media Relations, 2018 Football Media Guide
University of Tulsa, Sports Information
Western Kentucky University, Sports Information, Bryan Fyalkowski (provided photo of Ty Storey at Western Kentucky and facilitated Ty Storey interview)
Western Kentucky University Athletics, Steve Roberts (photographer of Ty Storey photograph published with permission of Western Kentucky University).
WPSD, Channel 6, Paducah, Kentucky
I would like to extend a special thanks to my wife, Elaine, who supported me through many weeks of work on this project.