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Cox goes where his heart is
Love of soccer leads SEHS senior to Georgia Southwestern
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Flanked by his sister Morgan, mother Pam and father Kevin Cox, South Effingham High School senior midfielder Tyler Cox signs a letter of intent to play soccer for Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus as SEHS assistant coach Michael Pearce and head coach Paul Richards watch over his shoulder. - photo by Photo by Patrick Donahue

When he was younger, Tyler Cox played baseball and basketball. But he loved soccer and now soccer is helping pave the way for college.

Cox, a senior midfielder with the South Effingham High School Mustangs, signed a letter of intent Wednesday morning with Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus.

“It’s something you don’t get much recognition for, playing soccer in America and playing a sport not many people love around here,” he said.

South Effingham coach Paul Richards said what made Cox a special player for him was his drive, perseverance and love of the sport.

“I’ve had good players in the past,” said Richards, who also played collegiately. “Tyler is the first one to walk out here knowing what is required at the next level. Plus, he’s good academically. He’s coachable. He’s going to adjust to a new level.”

Cox played recreation soccer under his dad and he could “release his energy running around,” he said. “I played baseball and basketball, but I got to a point where I had to stick with one, and I had the most fun playing it.”

On the club level, Cox plays with the Coastal Georgia Soccer Association in Savannah. He’ll be joined by club teammate Mitchell Dowd of Richmond Hill at Georgia Southwestern.

“It’s a pretty small school,” Cox said of Georgia Southwestern, which has an enrollment of about 2,600. “It’s a good fit for me.”

He also may not have to wait long for playing time, which is to his liking. The Hurricanes went 2-12 last season and are hiring a new coach.

“I’ll be able to play and not have to wait three years like at Clemson or (another) top ACC school,” Cox said.

Richards said Cox has what it takes to make it in college, both on the field and off.

“I don’t see  a big bump in the road that takes place when seniors move on to play collegiately,” he said. “I’ve never seen him back down from a challenge.”

Cox’s first two seasons at South Effingham didn’t meet with a lot of success on the field, but the Mustangs were Region 3-AAA runners-up last year and region champs this year. He knows he has some work to do to get ready to play Division II soccer — Georgia Southwestern is a member of the Peach Belt Athletic Conference — and he’s already worked on a few areas. In last year’s region championship game, Cox was red carded.

“One of the better parts of my game is not giving up,” he said. “I’ve worked on my attitude and staying calm.”