Tyson Magana

Tight end Tyson Magana, who has TD catches each of the last two weeks, and district-leading Temple look to take down Hewitt Midway tonight

Temple’s football coaches thought defense was the best side for Tyson Magana during his first two years of high school. He played linebacker on sub-varsity teams and was a backup defensive lineman entering his junior season on varsity.

The only problem was that Magana admittedly doesn’t really like defense.

“I just like being on offense, to be honest,” said Magana, the Wildcats’ 6-foot, 221-pound senior tight end. “I love being down in the trenches with my brothers. I love lighting up that scoreboard.”

Fortunately for Magana, one of his personality traits is persistence. Over time, he persuaded — wore down might be a better description — Temple head coach Scott Stewart and his assistants to move him to offense last year and turn him into a tight end.

Good call.

“Tyson came up and asked, ‘Can I play tight end?’ I said, ‘No.’ ‘Can I play tight end?’ ‘No,’” Stewart recalled. “We, obviously, had a little bit of depth there last year, and he saw we were pretty deep on the defensive line. Finally I said, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a shot.’”

Taking that shot has proved beneficial for Magana and the Wildcats. He’s a willing, effective blocker for a prolific Temple offense that’s rushed for 299.5 yards per game, and in recent weeks he’s emerged as a productive threat in the passing game.

Two weeks ago at Killeen Ellison he recorded his first varsity touchdown, a 29-yard catch-and-run play from senior Vance Willis in the Wildcats’ 64-38 win. Magana added three receptions for 85 yards in last Friday’s 57-13 homecoming victory over Waco, highlighted by his 24-yard touchdown from sophomore Samari Howard.

“It feels good, knowing that I have the opportunities to score and help my team put points on the board,” said Magana, whose season totals are six catches for 139 yards and two TDs.

District 12-6A leader Temple (7-1, 6-0) shoots to clinch its first league championship since 2015 and earn a first-round home playoff game when the Wildcats travel to battle defending champ Hewitt Midway (5-3, 5-1) at 7:30 tonight at Panther Stadium.

To Stewart, it’s a combination of physical and emotional growth and maturity that’s helped Magana become the player and teammate he is.

“He’s just a good athlete with good hand-eye coordination and good hands,” said Stewart, who rates Magana’s blocking ability at “probably a 7 or 8” on a scale of 1 to 10. “He’s become a lot better blocker over the last year and a half. He gets after it. That’s the tell-tale thing (for a tight end). That’s where I put a lot of emphasis, is how much do you want to block? He’s done a pretty good job of that.”

Stewart also appreciates Magana’s personality, even though it’s included prodding the coach into letting him switch over to offense.

“Tyson’s a good kid. He’s a kid you like. He’s grown up completely,” Stewart said. “He’s like a lot of our kids, where he wasn’t making the greatest decisions (earlier in high school) but wasn’t a bad person. He’s very funny and very observant. When you look at him, you never know what he’s thinking. It looks like he’s scheming up something. He’s got a million-dollar smile.”

Tight ends Chris Minter and Zach Rumfield were vital cogs for Temple’s successful teams from 2013-16, and Magana is performing in a similar manner this season after getting accustomed to his new position last year.

“He gained a lot of muscle mass in the offseason. He’s a baseball player and an athlete that has the big frame and body that gives us a dual threat to catch the football and also be a physical threat in the run game,” Temple offensive coordinator Josh Sadler said of Magana. “That’s a big plus for us.”

Magana’s blocking often benefits someone he’s very close to, standout senior running back Anthony Jackson. They became good friends in sixth grade at Bonham Middle School, and in seventh grade Jackson — who’s said he had to move around frequently as a child — found stability when he moved in to live with the Magana family, including Tyson’s father, Marcus, and stepmother, Jessica.

“Man, we bond so good together. He feels like my blood brother,” Magana said of Jackson. “I’ve loved him since Day 1. Since I met him, we just clicked. With Vance and Anthony back there (in Bonham’s backfield), there was no stopping us.”

Magana has three younger brothers, including Temple freshman football player Peyton Magana, and Wildcats sophomore offensive tackle Colby Rice is his half-brother. Magana’s other relatives include Danny Magana, the kicker for Temple’s Class 5A Division II state championship team in 1992.

Jackson is known for his breakaway speed and long-distance TDs, but Magana displayed impressive athleticism of his own against Ellison when he caught a Willis pass in the middle, took on defenders inside the 5-yard line and dived across the goal line for a 29-yard touchdown.

“That was a good play, and he’s got that kind of playmaking ability,” Stewart said of Magana, who’s recovered from a painful ankle injury that slowed him early this season. “He’s not super-fast, but he’s quick and has good hands.”

A dedicated two-sport athlete, Magana plays the corner infield positions and pitches for Temple’s baseball team and during the summer travels to compete in select baseball tournaments. He hopes to earn an opportunity to continue playing either sport in college.

“I love (baseball) more than football, to be honest,” Magana said before catching himself and reconsidering. “Well, it’s about the same. I’ve really enjoyed playing football these last two years. Just being around my brothers has made me love it a lot more.”