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When you�receive as many recruiting letters as Oaks Christian School stars Jimmy Clausen and Marc Tyler have, you develop a discerning eye. "You can tell which ones are handwritten and which ones are supposed to look like they're handwritten," says Tyler. "I tried to read all of the personal ones."
College football coaches all over America could've saved time and money by sending just one set of letters to the Clausen home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Clausen and Tyler lived in adjoining rooms for most of the last three school years.
During that time the two became the headliners of a star-studded show at Oaks Christian, a small private school in Westlake Village, 24 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Including Clausen, a 6'3", 208-pound quarterback who committed to Notre Dame in April, and Tyler, a 6'1", 220-pound running back who committed to USC in June, nine Lions seniors are expected to sign with Division I-A programs this year.
Around town Clausen and Tyler have become A-listers, rivaling local celebrities such as Heather Locklear and Denise Richards. "We'll go out to Jamba Juice, and people will look at us and start whispering," Tyler says. "After games we'll sign autographs for 45 minutes."
All this is somewhat new for Tyler. Clausen is used to the attention, having carried around lofty-sounding monikers like Golden Boy since middle school, but Tyler didn't blossom until the last two years. His combination of size, speed and pass-catching ability vaulted him to the top of his class of running backs. Last season he rushed for 2,195 yards and scored 45 touchdowns, beating out Clausen for the Golden State Junior Player of the Year Award.
When Tyler, the son of former San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl running back Wendell Tyler, enrolled at Oaks Christian in 2003, he was commuting 80 miles each way from his home in Lancaster, Calif. Shortly thereafter Clausen invited Tyler to stay over during the week so he wouldn't have such a long drive. It wasn't easy for Tyler to leave his family and friends, but his dad was determined that his son get the best education possible, in the classroom and on the field.
"At first [Marc] was real quiet and shy, and he didn't want to eat," Clausen says. "But he gradually started getting more comfortable with me and my family. And in a few weeks he was eating all the food in the house."
Although Tyler remains close to his friends back home--he recognizes them by writing Lancaster's area code, 661, in silver marker on his eye-black strips before games--he quickly became inseparable from Clausen. Every day after practice they'd study together, watch TV and talk football. Clausen taught Tyler how to use flash cards to learn new words, Tyler coached Clausen on how to add an urban look to his wardrobe. "Without me," says Tyler, "he'd be dressing like an Abercrombie model all the time."
Now that both Clausen and Tyler have picked their college destinations and Tyler has found other digs (he moved into an apartment 25 miles from Oaks Christian with his dad in January), the flow of mail has slowed at the Clausen house. Most of the football-related letters now go to the school, where coach Bill Redell handles them.