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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Mocs wide receiver Tyron Arnett (11) makes a catch before the start of the football game between UTC and the Wofford Terriers at Finley Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Tyron Arnett was already pleased to get an opportunity for a fresh start with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

It was only an added benefit that he's getting an opportunity to do it with a couple of guys he grew up with.

Growing up in Belle Glade, Florida, the opportunities to get out and make a new beginning aren't always there. But not only did Arnett do so, but so did fellow Mocs wide receivers Reginald Henderson and Tyrin Summers. Of course, there has to be some level of pride attached to where they came from, so when Pahokee High School — where Arnett attended — beat Clewiston 28-10 on Oct. 22, Arnett made Summers wear a Pahokee sweater with a "P" on it, a shirt Summers called "toilet paper."

Ironically, none of the three started their careers at UTC. Henderson committed to the University of Miami before ending up at Middle Tennessee State, Summers went to Cincinnati while Arnett began at Western Michigan.

"It's just a dream come true," said Arnett, who played little league with Henderson and ran track with Summers growing up. "We didn't think about it when we were younger, but essentially it just happened. Just being able to pursue our dreams and just get our education is like the best thing you could possibly ask for, honestly."

All three have done that. When Arnett first arrived in Chattanooga from Western Michigan — where he was a two-time Academic All-Mid Atlantic Conference selection – in January of 2020, he couldn't get to the practice field because he was too busy with classes to finish his degree in biology. Henderson has a degree in sports management and Summers is currently working on his master's in criminal justice.

But Arnett has started to figure some things out on the football field as well, with the UTC coaching staff finding ways to get him involved in the offense. He's started five games this season, and has hauled in 15 passes for 136 yards.

"You watch the film on Saturdays and Tyron is throwing his body around. He goes in there and blocks and when I say he blocks, he's going in and blocking safeties. He's flying in there to hurt them," UTC head coach Rusty Wright said. "I couldn't ask for a better human being in this program.

"We've thrown the ball to him and he's caught it a majority of the time. It's what he's supposed to do. Hopefully he's rubbing off on others to be better, and that's the thing; those guys work their tails off, and that's why good things are happening all the time."

At Arnett's previous school, the reward for a conference championship in any capacity was maybe a bowl game. Now at UTC, that means an opportunity to play for a national championship, and with wins this week at Mercer and next week at home against The Citadel, the Mocs (6-3, 5-1 Southern Conference) will be assured one of the final 24 spots in the tournament.

"I came here to get a bigger role than I had at Western Michigan, so I'm excited to get another opportunity to put my talents out at the Division I level," said Arnett, who had 21 catches for 287 yards and a touchdown in three seasons at the school. "Here at the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) level, you get to the playoffs and you get more bites at the apple, more opportunities to put yourself out there, put out more film and get more exposure, so it's a blessing."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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