"He's A Warrior": What Kyahva Tezino Means To The Birmingham Stallions

“He’s A Warrior”: What Kyahva Tezino Means To The Stallions

“And then there was one…”

That was Head Coach Skip Holtz’s response to a question about his linebacking corps after the Stallions’ thrilling 30-26 win over the Battlehawks.

The Birmingham Stallions began the season with one of the best linebacker groups in the UFL. In addition to returning starter Scooby Wright, the Stallions acquired three former All-USFL players: DeMarquis Gates, Chris Orr, and Kyahva Tezino.

The group was so stout, in fact, that in a preseason interview with Birmingham Stallions General Manager Zach Potter on the State of the Stallions podcast, Potter mentioned the linebackers as maybe the deepest unit on the team.

However, as the season has gone on, that depth has evaporated. First, it was Orr, who retired to pursue a career in coaching football rather than playing it.

Next, it was Scooby Wright. Wright has battled injuries for years, but after sustaining a serious neck injury against his former team the D.C. Defenders in week four, he announced he was retiring.

That left just Gates and Tezino out of the big four. However, Gates was injured early in week six against Memphis and did not return to the game. He was later ruled out for the Stallions’ huge week seven matchup against the XFL-leading St. Louis Battlehawks.

And then there was one, indeed. However, turns out that one was all they needed.

Week 7 Heroics From Kyahva Tezino

Kyahva Tezino came up huge yet again for the Stallions in their week seven contest, recording seven tackles, four of which were solo. However, his biggest play of the game came at the end and was not a tackle. After a blocked punt, the Birmingham Stallions gave the ball back to the Battlehawks only down four with 46 seconds left in the game. On fourth and two from the Stallions 39, Battlehawks quarterback A. J. McCarron dropped back to pass. He tried to find star wide receiver Jahcour Pearson over the middle on a five-yard “over-the-ball” route, but Tezino was there to break it up, sealing the win for the Stallions.

Tezino streaked down the sideline, throwing his helmet off and amping up the record-setting Birmingham crowd alongside his teammates.

After the game, Holtz talked about what Tezino has meant to the team.

“To have Tezino there, with his level of play, with his competitive nature, with his attitude and the intangibles that he carries and the way that he plays the game, he’s a leader…I’m certainly glad we have him.

I remember when you start talking in the offseason it’s like…well you got Gates, and you got Scooby, and you got Lloyd, and you got Sullivan, and then you sign Tezino and it’s like, wow, you got a really crowded room. And then there was one…and the one that’s in there is a warrior. I mean he’s a champ, and he’s leading. So I’m certainly glad I have him and his play, his leadership.

We played against him last year, great respect for the young man. It’s one of those things, if you can’t beat ‘em, you know what? Join ‘em. I think he had like 12 tackles against us, and it was like, ‘Son I want you on our roster’…When he became a free agent we did everything we could to get him. I thought [Stallions General Manager Zach Potter] worked really hard at trying to sign him, and it was certainly nice to get him signed. I didn’t realize how big of a piece of the puzzle it was going to be until all of the sudden you get a couple games in and your other starters are out.”

Defensive Player of the Year?

The man leading Tezino in that 12-tackle performance against the Stallions last year was former Pittsburgh Maulers Defensive Coordinator Jarren Horton. On Monday’s episode of “Around the UFL,” Horton talked about his assessment of Tezino over the past two years.

“No disrespect at all to Frank Ginda, but I think Tez should have been the Defensive Player of the Year last year in the USFL…He this year to me is the Defensive Player of the Year [in the UFL]…I am glad Tez is getting a chance to shine now and show what he can do because he deserves it. I think he deserves to be the Defensive Player of the Year if he maintains what he’s doing.”

Although there are other fantastic defensive players out there, there is a strong case to be made for Tezino. He has been one of the best players on the best defense in the league. He leads the Stallions with 49 tackles despite not starting several games early in the year. He also has a tackle for loss, a half a sack, and two pass breakups in his seven games.

Where his game has potentially improved the most is in coverage. He struggled in week one, for example, giving up five completions on six attempts for 64 yards. This led to him getting a 29.1 PFF grade for coverage that game.

This past week, though? Tezino again gave up five catches on six targets but only for 16 yards, almost all of which came on one play. He had the game-winning pass breakup at the end of the game and earned a 77.9 coverage grade from PFF—one of the top marks on the team.

Stallions Continue to Dominate

As injuries have piled up, there has understandably been some concern about the Stallions defense and if they would have enough depth to finish out the year strong. However, with guys like Tezino rising to the occasion, nerves have been calmed. The Stallions defense, no matter who takes the field, continues to be the class of the league.

Look for them to continue to dominate during the home stretch of the season, especially as they get healthier and continue to build around their warrior in the middle: Kyahva Tezino.

What are your thoughts on Kyahva Tezino and his play with the Birmingham Stallions this year? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!