Friday , March 21, 2014 - 9:08 AM
LOGAN — It was the second day of spring practices at Utah State, and Tyler Larsen was feeling the itch to get back on the football field.
But after five years as an Aggie, Larsen is now just an observer, walking around the USU football offices and stopping off to catch up with former coaches and teammates after a busy couple of months away from Cache Valley.
“It’s really weird that I don’t belong to anyone right now,” says Larsen, who hopes to belong to a professional team sometime during the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8-10. “It’s a whole new feeling for me, and I want to get out there and get back into football. I was fortunate enough to have the Senior Bowl to kind of get a little taste of it, but I’m definitely missing football right now.”
While the Jordan High School product wrapped up his USU career on Dec. 26 with the Aggies’ 21-14 victory over Northern Illinois, Larsen went on to turn some heads a month later at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The 6-foot-4, 312-pound center was on the field for about 40 plays and held his own against some of the top defensive players in college football.
“That was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” Larsen says. “It was really good to see where I’m at by playing against some of the top guys in the nation.”
Before and after the Senior Bowl, Larsen spent most of his time at EXOS (formerly Athletes Performance) in Phoenix, working out, getting lean and preparing for the NFL Combine. He then joined up with safety Maurice Alexander, cornerback Nevin Lawson and tight end D.J. Tiavlavea from Feb. 22-25 to make it a school-record four Aggies to participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
“That was one of the most stressful, most mind-exhausting things I’ve ever been through,” Larsen says. “But it was also one of the most fun experiences of my life.”
Larsen admits that as an offensive lineman, all of the attention he received in Indianapolis came as a bit of a surprise. He says he ended up talking to “just about every single head coach,” and a lot of other people that “I wouldn’t ever have thought would talk to me.”
“I expected to talk to some offensive line coaches, but not head coaches and offensive coordinators,” Larsen says. “And I met with just about everyone in the Chargers organization from the general manager all the way down. That was kind of a curveball because that kind of attention is not really a normal thing for us O-lineman.”
Because he’s never had any off-field issues, Larsen says he was asked pretty easy questions during the interviews and that it was “smooth breezing.” However, he was thrown another curveball by the physicals and medical exams, which took up seven hours of one day and eight hours of another.
Due to a tweaked hamstring suffered a few weeks earlier, Larsen didn’t run the 40-yard dash, but he did impress everyone by recording 36 reps on the bench press (with 225 pounds on the bar) -- equaling the second-most of any participant at this year’s NFL Combine.
“After waking up at 5 a.m. and going to bed around midnight for three straight days, you’re a little exhausted,” Larsen says. “But once it’s time to start rolling, your adrenalin kicks in and you feel just fine, like you barely got there.”
Larsen plans to run the 40 for NFL scouts during USU’s Pro Day on April 1, and after that, he’s just hoping to hear his name announced in New York City in May. He says he tries not to look at any of the mock draft or evaluations, but that his wife, Samantha, can’t help but try and keep on eye out of buzz on her husband.
“She’s saying from the third round to the fourth round is where I have the potential to be drafted, but I have no idea what teams are involved,” Larsen says. “For me, I’m just going to be happy if I get drafted.”
Larsen’s brother, Cody, was signed as a free agent out of Southern Utah and spent last season on the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive tackle. He’s ready to offer up advice as soon as Tyler signs with a team, while Samantha, a senior catcher on the USU softball team is wrapping up her collegiate career this spring.
“It’s been pretty crazy. We’ve been married for nine months, and we’ve seen each other about two of those months,” Larsen says. “It’s been hard, but at the same time it’s kind of been easier that we’ve both been so busy. We’re both really motivated. She wants to finish school and stay focused, and I’m going for the NFL, and I’m giving it all I have.”
Larsen played in two games during the 2009 season before being sidelined by a knee injury. But after that rough start, Larsen became an ironman for the Aggies, starting a school-record 52 straight games over the next four years and graduating in interdisciplinary studies as part of the winningest senior class in school history.
“It’s been an awesome journey,” proclaims Larsen, who was a part of 31 victories as an Aggie. “I’ve loved playing for Utah State. Helping this program turn around and change is by far one of the best journeys and adventures of my life.”
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