For his size at 5’7” and 169 pounds, Tyler Snead is one of the more physical players Mike Houston has on his roster. Not afraid to take a hit and dish a few out, you can see that physicality at the end of every reception and play Snead is involved in on the field.

“He is a competitor,” Houston said. “When he’s out there going ahead our defense in pass skell or one-on-one’s, he is trying to win every single rep. We did a perimeter drill where the receivers are blocking for the bubble screens and stuff like that. If he’s blocking, he’s going to try to flat-back you, even at his size. He’s probably going to tell you about it after it does quietly under his breath because nobody can tell, which gets under the defensive kid’s skin, but that kid competes every single day in everything he does.”

One of the hard-working players, both on the practice field and on game day, Snead never takes a day off from practice, according to his head coach. Under the culture Houston is building at ECU, players earn the playing time they get by their performance in practice. That is why fans have seen names like Elijah Morris and Nolan Johnson earn significant reps this season.

Coming off a redshirt year in 2018, Snead earned his playing time and quickly became ECU’s go-to pass-catcher and do-everything man. In 12 games, Snead caught 66 passes for north of 750 yards and five touchdowns last year. Serving as the Pirates’ primary kick-off and punt returner, Snead finished the 2019 campaign with over 1,300 all-purpose yards, averaging 108.5 per game.

This season, the sophomore is well on his way to outpacing those numbers. Placed on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List — an award given to the most versatile player-of-the-year — Snead is averaging 116 all-purpose yards per contest through the season’s first five games, tying him for 60th in the NCAA.

His 227 combined kick-return yards — 180 on kick-offs, 47 on punt returns — is top-25 in the country, as is his 7.2 receptions per game. With a season-high 16 catches for 108 yards one week ago against Tulsa, Snead now has four career outings with at least 10 receptions and has caught one pass in 19 of his 21 career appearances.

“He thinks he is the best player on the field and he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Houston said. “Because of that, you see him go out this past Friday night and have the game that he had, which is no surprise to any of us.”

It is also no surprise to see Snead pacing the program with 302 receiving yards at this point in the season. With one of the highest motors on the team and impeccable practice habits, the sophomore wide receiver is used as something of a role model by Houston for the new faces in the program.

Just this week, Houston highlighted Snead’s work ethic in practice to a freshman pass-catcher that was not exactly giving 100% in an early-practice drill.

“We talk a lot about practice habits,” Houston said. “We had a freshman receiver and he catches a route and he kind of turns and kind of trots up the field. I’m coaching him and I’m saying ‘we want to catch it, sharp burst and really accelerate out of that catch and get north right now.’ As I’m talking to him, Tyler’s the next guy up in line. I just made the comment, I said, ‘you want to know what positive practice habits are?’ I said, ‘you watch 22 every single snap.’”

With four games remaining on ECU’s schedule, Snead is on track to haul in 65 catches for 544 yards this season. If his average of 116 all-purpose yards per game holds, he would also eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second-straight season. Of course with the fluidity of the 2020 season, the number of games remaining could change by the end of November.

One thing that does not seem likely to change, however, is Snead’s ability and willingness to do anything and everything for his team. In that position due to his practice habits and overall work ethic, Snead has the chance to post gaudy numbers in a purple and gold uniform before his eligibility runs out.

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