Tyler Nsekpong’s life was basketball.

The sport consumed him as a high school student, and his single-mindedness made getting into college harder than it should have been.

However, that’s in the past as Tyler, the outstanding graduate of the Tarleton State University Department of Biological Sciences, will deliver the commencement address at the 4 p.m. ceremony Friday.

“I played basketball from the age of 7 until I was a senior in high school. I was trying to pursue basketball, trying to make it to the NBA, instead of focusing on academics,” he admitted.

But when he graduated Flower Mound Marcus High School, there were no offers to continue his athletic career in college and he was stuck with a weak academic record.

It was his sister, Jennifer Rivera, a two-time Tarleton graduate, who led him to Stephenville where he had to enroll in a summer mentoring program to earn his way onto campus.

“It was really all or nothing,” he said. “But once I did focus on making good grades, I could see that I could probably continue doing that. Once I made the decision of what I wanted to do with my life, people at Tarleton really helped a lot.”

He graduates with a degree in biomedical sciences with a minor in chemistry.

“I knew once I got to college I wanted to pursue something in the medical field. That was based on my stepfather having kidney failure, his battle with trying to recover from that. I knew this curriculum was going to better suit my desire to pursue science and medicine.”

Tyler has an impressive academic résumé to help him land a spot in medical school.

He was president of the pre-health honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta; president of the Tarleton Chemical Society; winner of the Davidson Presidential Scholarship; and a student mentor, tutor and, for the last 2 years, a teaching assistant in organic chemistry.

Additionally, he earned the Dick Smith College of Science and Technology Scholarship, the winner of the Dick Smith Library Starburst in a Jar Challenge, and won the annual Tarleton Research Symposium as well as the Texas A&M University System Pathways Research Symposium.

Away from school he still likes to play basketball, fish, play video games and spend time with his family and friends. If he weren’t busy enough, he is one of the youth ministry leaders for fifth- and sixth-graders at Stephenville’s Timber Ridge Church.

He said the favorite part of his time on campus has been what he calls “creating his path” and sharing his experiences with other students.

“Going through all the classes and seeing how I can be a difference in other people’s lives has been amazing. It has definitely shown me I’m capable of pursuing higher goals.”

His commencement speech is framed as a thank you to those who helped him and his fellow graduates get their degrees.

“It’s for everyone on campus who played a role in each of our successes,” he said. “I’ll talk about professors, about family and friends. I’ll also talk about (Tarleton President) Dr. (F. Dominic) Dottavio. I end reminding graduates that we can’t forget the core values of leadership and tradition we learned over the course of our time at Tarleton.”

Tyler hopes for a career in pediatric medicine, and while he has not been accepted to medical school, he has applied to and been interviewed by several institutions.

However his professional life pans out, he said he will always remember how he was able to earn his way into Tarleton and to eventually excel.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be from the moment I came here,” he said. “I credit Tarleton for making me a better person.”