Amid the main storylines that highlighted this weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis— Marcus Mariota blowing Jameis Winston’s 40-yard dash out of the water, and linebacker Vic Beasley running a 4.53 40-yard dash while also tallying 35 repetitions at 225 pounds on the bench press — Yale fans may have noticed that one piece was missing: running back Tyler Varga ’15.
Though Varga could be seen on NFL Network sporting his camouflage Yale football hat among the Combine’s running backs, a minor bone spur in his ankle prevented him from participating in all running and jumping drills, according to Joe Linta ’83, Varga’s agent. The only number Varga was able to record was 23 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, but Linta said Varga was nonetheless able to gain exposure by interviewing with most of the NFL teams.
“He can do everything in his pro day on March 31,” Linta said. “Obviously, it was a disappointment, but he had a lot of good interviews … I think all systems are go. It’s not going to hurt to not have been able to do some of the things [in Indianapolis].”
Linta said Varga first discovered the issue last weekend, and Yale doctors determined early last week that it would prevent him from running in the Combine. A full recovery is expected within a week.
Though the injury is minor and seems to be more a matter of unfortunate timing than a long-term problem, it is not the first time a lower leg injury has kept Varga off the field. In his final high school game in 2010, the Kitchener, Ontario native tore his peroneal tendon, which connects the calf to the foot. Three years later, another foot injury prevented him from playing in four of Yale’s games in 2013.
But Yale head coach Tony Reno said that the bone spur — a projection of bone that forms along a joint — is “completely unrelated” to the earlier tendon injuries, and it will not affect the way he appears to scouts.
“It’s not going to inhibit him from running next week,” Reno said. “If the Combine were this [upcoming] week, he would have been fine. I wouldn’t even classify it as an injury.”
Linta added that in his mind, the only result of the injury will be more scout attention at his pro day, an opportunity for regional scouts to get more of an individual look at him. Varga will get a chance to participate in the same workouts that happen at the NFL Scouting Combine, such as the 40-yard dash, cone drills and pass-catching drills.
In that 40-yard dash, Varga will be expecting a time between 4.55 and 4.62 seconds, a range that would put him in the top half of the 36 running backs that were at the Combine, according to Linta. That speed complements his strength as demonstrated by 23 repetitions on the bench press, which tied for eighth among running backs.
“He’s the whole package,” Reno said. “He can carry the ball, he can catch it out of the backfield and he can block. If you watched the Senior Bowl, there wasn’t a player on the field who demonstrated the versatility that he did.”
Although Yale is holding its own pro day on March 26th, Varga will instead participate in a pro day at a facility near the University of Connecticut alongside another one of Linta’s clients, former Sacred Heart defensive back Gordon Hill.
While this will not be the same as UConn’s pro day, it will be scheduled so that scouts can see UConn players and Varga either on the same day or consecutive days, Linta said.
With Varga checking in at 5’10” and 222 pounds, it remains unclear whether he will be used at tailback or fullback if drafted by the NFL. Though he has never played fullback in his career, coaches had him at both positions during the Senior Bowl in January, likely due to his large physique.
In interviews with NFL teams last month, Varga said he enjoyed being able to show versatility at both positions. Reno said this mentality is consistent with Varga’s attitude towards football in general.
“Knowing Tyler as well as I do, it doesn’t matter what position he plays, what matters to Tyler is how much he can impact the team positively,” Reno said. “That’s the kid that we lined up at quarterback for three games [in 2012], and he jumped all in during that situation.”
Former Harvard linebacker and defensive end Zach Hodges, who was at the Combine alongside Varga, posted a 4.68 40-yard dash time but does not have a bench press performance listed on the NFL’s website.
The NFL Draft, in which Linta predicted Varga as a fourth- or fifth-round selection, will take place from April 30 to May 2.
Correction, Feb. 25: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Tyler Varga ’15 will be participating in a pro day near the University of Connecticut because Yale does not hold a pro day for football. In fact, Yale will hold a pro day on March 26th, but Varga will not participate because his agent is organizing a separate pro day for his clients. The article has been updated to reflect the change.