MUSKEGON – Several family members and friends were on hand to support Tyreese Oakes during his National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday at Hackley Stadium.
One of the biggest inspirations in his life, and certainly the driving force behind his playing football, was not there in body but in spirit. Domico Oakes passed away during son Tyreese’s freshman year, but he was at the forefront of his son’s mind as “T.O.” made it official with Grand Valley State University.
Domico Oakes died at age 46 on Sept. 9, 2017, following a cancer battle which he fought at different times in his life. He was there Wednesday in Tyreese’s heart and soul, memorialized by a photo encapsuled in a necklace medallion that fittingly hung over his son’s chest.
“I want to thank the man above, man – my daddy,” Tyreese said in an emotional moment during his speech, as he put his hand over the medallion and offered thanks to several people during his signing-day ceremony. “He seen this in me – I ain’t even seen this in me.”
Tyreese Oakes always fancied himself a basketball player as a youngster, but his dad saw the potential in him with football. And now the Muskegon Big Reds’ 6-foot, 183-pound senior safety is going to play for one of the top Division II programs in the nation.
While introducing Tyreese during the signing ceremony, Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield saluted Domico Oakes and expressed that his legacy lives on through Tyreese. He said that Tyreese will continue to carry on the family name and do great things – make his father proud.
“Man, (the emotions) hit me big. If I did cry, it was going to be tears of joy because my dad, he like, he said the day was going to come, but nobody thought it was going to come – everybody thought I was going to be a basketball star,” Tyreese said. “I thought I was going to be a basketball star, but I fell in love with football when I got to high school.
“He’s probably telling like, ‘I told you, I told you this was going happen.’ I know he’s up there (in heaven) going crazy.”
Tyreese Oakes was a two-time, first-team all-state performer for the Big Reds, who amassed a 22-3 overall record with a pair of deep playoff runs in his two full seasons as a varsity standout.
Fairfield said that Oakes gave his heart and soul as well as his body to the program. More importantly, Fairfield pointed out, are the things Oakes has done off the field and in the classroom. In his senior year, he’s carried a 3.8 grade-point average and sported a cumulative 3.1.
“He’s a young man, nobody sees the things that he does outside of football, reading to elementary schools, being involved, going and doing talks with elementary football players and teams, and being a role model and a figurehead for our community,” Fairfield said.
“What I’m excited about is him going on to make a name for himself and then bringing that back to continue to inspire the youth and the young people and to be a role model to his (younger) brother.”
Wednesday was an emotional day for Oakes’ entire family. It was apparent in Tyreese, as well as in the eyes of his mother Tasha Bibbs-Oakes and younger brother Tamareon, “Man Man,” who both joined him at the head table during the ceremony.
When Tyreese Oakes was introduced to the recruiting process following his 2019 season, several Division I programs came forward with offers. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, in-person college visits could not happen in the traditional way. Scholarship offers dried up – spots just weren’t available.
But in Tyreese’s heart, he knows GVSU is where he belongs. He believes it’s where he’s meant to be, even if he wasn’t always sure he was destined to play football.
“My first time playing football, I cried at my first practice. I’m like, ‘Bro, I’m not gonna play this, bro. This is over with. They hit too hard,’” Tyreese said. “(His dad) had me playing with big kids because I started in Dynamites. They were already hittin’.
“So then I got to middle school and high school, that’s when it got fun. I had people doubting me – they didn’t think I was going make it through the whole high school (football experience). But I signed, I made it – I’m going to college.”
— to www.mlive.com