Tyler Rich to play in Shriner's all-star football game

It was a tough loss for Pontiac back in October. The Indians lost a shootout to Illini Prairie Conference rival Unity at Tolono in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
    It was a 61-42 loss to the Rockets and Tyler Rich can be excused for thinking it was his final game on the high school gridiron.
    Well, it wasn’t.
    Rich, a 6-foot-4 two-way starter, displayed a talent worthy of postseason recognition. Of the accolades, one has allowed the amiable Pontiac Township High School graduate to suit up as a prep one more time.
    The annual Shriner’s All-Star Game will take place Saturday at Tucci Stadium at Illinois Wesleyan at 1 p.m. It will be the culmination of a career that saw Rich play in the postseason two times and was the second class to have Buck Casson leading the program each of the four years he participated.
    “The best thing for me was having a final ride with Buck Casson, our head coach,” Rich said. “It was important to me to have him all four years. Everyone had been playing since JFL and that was our last hurrah.
    “Making it to the playoffs (as a senior was good), we had a tough loss to Tolono.”
    Rich will suited up in the blue jersey of the East squad, wearing No. 63 Saturday after donning 51 his senior season. He said he is going to play defensive end in this game, the same position he will play at North Central in the fall.
    “I visited here (IWU); a lot of CCIW schools I visited but North Central stuck out for me the most,” Rich said of his college choice, understanding that IWU and North Central are in the same conference, so he will be playing close to home. “I’m looking forward to playing there.”
    Rich understands where he is at as far as preparation for the Shriner’s game. He also feels it could be interesting with players representing all eight classes competing in one game.
    “It’s an all-star game, so I’m expecting a lot of talent here,” Rich said. “You have to prove yourself. I guess everyone here is going to college, so it’s not going to be easy. It’s worth it.
    “I’m from 4A, so I’m used to kind of big. The 1, 2 and 3As I’m guessing are going to have an eye-opening experience from the 7 and 8. You just have to prepare.”
    This could play into a preseason preparation experience for Rich, as well.
    “I feel in high school, if you’re an athlete, you’re going to succeed and be the best,” Rich said. “In college, all the guys are in one place so it’s not anyone sticking out, you have to prove yourself, it’s going to be a different experience.
    “I feel like I’m in an elite group here, it’s pretty special.”
    Another lesson that makes the Shriner’s game unique, and rather special, is the trip the players took Wednesday to the Shriner’s hospital in Chicago. It’s annual event where the will see what the Shriner’s fraternal organization does to help children who need medical attention.
    For many young athletes, it’s an experience that makes them realize the good fortune they have had to be so healthy.
    “We’re going to learn what this whole thing is about in Chicago,” Rich said at Tuesday’s media day. “I’m looking forward to that, meeting with the patients and learn what they do and see how everything’s run.”