Four Canadians will skate for the Bulldogs this winter, but this fall it has been a football star from the great white north who has taken Yale by storm. Running back Tyler Varga ’15 has entered the Ivy League football scene and the Ivy League Rookie of the Year discussion from an unusual football background.
Varga leads the Elis with 419 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in four games this season. In addition to excelling at football, Varga has competed in a variety of other sports, including skiing, baseball, judo — he has a blue belt — and gymnastics.
“I did [gymnastics] for about eight years,” Varga said. “I think that provided me with a really good base just for overall explosiveness and strength and body control.”
Varga credited his father, John, as a major influence in his athletic development. The elder Varga had been a quarterback during his high school days and now works in fitness. Varga stated that his father both helped him with his fitness and kindled his affection for football.
That passion for football led Varga to the University of Western Ontario. With the Mustangs last year, he dashed his way to 799 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns and the Canadian Intervarsity Sports Rookie of the Year award. Although the rules are slightly different north of the border, Yale’s running back coach Larry Ciotti said that Varga quickly adapted to the new rules this year.
“It took him a little time to understand American football,” Ciotti said. “Didn’t take him a great deal of time, but we kid him about it.”
As an NFL fan, Varga said that most of the rules did not faze him, although not having multiple men in motion surprised him at first. In Canada, the field is 10 yards longer, there is one more man on the field and one less down, but Varga stated his role remains unchanged.
“For the most part for the running backs it’s the same game,” Varga said. “They hand the ball off to us [and] we’ve got to break tackles, make people miss and get into the end zone.”
The game has not changed much for Varga, as he has continued to power through defenses regardless of the different rules. He described his running style as “aggressive,” and even opposing teams have noticed. Colgate linebacker Chris Horner and Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani both said that Varga was hard to stop with just one man after facing him on the field.
Despite his successes, Varga seems unwilling to have the praise steeped wholly upon his shoulders. When asked about his performance, Varga is more likely to talk about his offensive line, his coaching staff or his fellow backs than he is to call his own number.
At Yale, however, Varga is not working solely towards success on the gridiron. Varga is also working toward a career in medicine. Rande Kostal, director of athletic programs for the University of Western Ontario football team, told the News last week that he felt Varga was particularly well-placed to have success both on and off the field.
“He’s a very bright kid,” Kostal said. “I wasn’t [director of athletic programs] when he was recruited … but his grades were very good.”
Varga’s credits from his freshman year at UWO have been transferred to Yale, Varga stated. These credits were transferred as part of the NCAA’s clarification of Varga’s elgibility to play this year. Varga was cleared to play last week, but he has been re-classified as a sophomore.
Despite being weighed down by his athletic and academic commitments, Varga said that he would like to experience more of what Yale has to offer. He added that he is interested in rushing a fraternity — either DKE or Zeta.
“I don’t know if they want me to disclose that,” Varga said. “I don’t want to start any wars here … I’ll leave that until the spring semester.”