Tyler Varga: A Canadian/Swedish/Finnish Yale Player Grabbing NFL Attention


It Runs in the Family

Given his pedigree and upbringing, it should come as no surprise that Tyler has achieved the education level and physical attributes he has today. His father John, a Croation/Canadian was a professional bodybuilder as was his mother Hannele Lundberg, a Finnish native who grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. The discipline of these two athletes has obviously carried over to Tyler. In fact, Hannele still skis competitively. John has been responsible for Tyler’s work out regime his entire life which has clearly made a difference, as Tyler has excelled at very level.

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John played football in high school, and Hannele played high-level rugby and ran track. They raised a nutrition freak with an astounding chiseled physique  – 5’11”, 230 lbs and minimal body fat. He was always a standout on the football field and at one point was playing community football in the spring and high school in the fall. So he would play 24 games a year and keep his grades up to Yale entrance levels.

While playing football he managed to fit in gymnastics, track and field, baseball, ski racing, judo and pretty much anything else he set his mind on doing. And of course excelled at it.

After a spectacular high school career, Varga began his college career at the University of Western Ontario and was named Canadian university football’s top rookie in ’11 before transferring to Yale.

Varga was dominant in his senior season at Yale (8-2) with 1,423 yards rushing and a school-record 26 TDs. Twice he had five touchdowns in a game — including the winning three-yard score in a 49-43 overtime win over Army — and ran for a season-high 204 yards and two TDs in a 45-42 victory over Brown.

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That secured Varga the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League’s offensive player of the year and a first-team all-star nod. He also received second- and third-team All-American honours from The Sports Network and Beyond Sports Network, respectively.

Varga is just the second Yale player to be invited to play the Senior Bowl. Offensive lineman Walter Clemens was the first in 1951.

“I’m really excited about it (playing in the Senior Bowl) but I’m trying not to let my emotions get the best of me,” Varga said. “It’s a good opportunity to put Canadian football on display a bit and show we’ve got talented guys north of the border as well.

“I’m also very proud to represent my university because there hasn’t been a Yale player go since 1951. But I think this also shows hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s by no means an end, it’s just the beginning, but it’s nice to kind of get your foot in the door and see that your hard work has paid off.”

That hard work has obviously paid off. CBS Sports said this of Varga as one 10 players who stood out on Saturday:

“Tyler Varga, RB/FB, Yale: Varga ran for 31 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries and delivered a couple of crushing blows when asked to line up as a fullback. Varga’s toughness, physicality and versatility stood out all week , but it was his surprising agility and balance despite his rocked-up frame that scouts may find most intriguing.”

Highlights of Tyler Varga’s record performance against Army.

Not surprising, Varga is also coveted by the Canadian Football League as well. The league’s scouting bureau ranked Varga fourth among the top-15 prospects for this year’s draft and the first skill-position player.

Varga’s top priority is playing in the NFL but he’d have no qualms plying his trade in the CFL. As a youngster, he even attended Toronto Argonauts home games.

“I’d be more than happy to come back and play in Canada,” he said. “That’s a proud accomplishment as well. It’s a great league to play in.”

With excerpts from Canadian Press.

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Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.