Though former Yale star Tyler Varga ’15 went unselected in this spring’s NFL Draft, he managed to last through training camp with the Indianapolis Colts, surviving the roster crunch from 90 to 53 players. If he plays on Sunday, he will be the first Bulldog to appear in an NFL game since 2008 when tight ends Eric Johnson ’01 and Nate Lawrie ’04 appeared for the New Orleans Saints and the Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. Varga spoke with the News about his journey to the Indianapolis Colts’ final roster, his experiences in the NFL and his fantasy football prospects.

Q

Since you signed in May, the ultimate goal has been to make the 53-man roster. Now that that goal has been accomplished, what have the past few days been like?

A

The last couple days have been pretty cool. I was actually in Chicago for the weekend, when I found out that I made the team. The deadline was 4 p.m. on Saturday, so I was actually hanging out with ex-Yale football player Ben Carbery ’15 and his family, just visiting. I found out from my agent, and that was pretty exciting. I told everybody right afterwards, got in touch with the guys back at school, from the team and the coaching staff back at Yale. They were really excited. We had Sunday off, Monday we had our first practice, and [Tuesday] was our off day as well. It’s just been cool to see your hard work pay off.

Q

What has the support been like from Yale, and whom have you been talking to?

A

I’ve stayed in touch with the coaching staff at Yale. Coach Reno, especially, has been keeping tabs on me and giving me a call every once in a while. Pretty much every week, or every other week, I’ve talked to him. Coach [Larry] Ciotti also calls me pretty much weekly to see how I’m doing. A lot of guys that are still on the team, I talk to them pretty much weekly, as well. They’re in camp, too, so I’m trying to keep track of them.

Q

At Yale, you were known for regularly breaking tackles, staying on your feet and getting many yards after contact. Could you talk about what that’s been like against NFL defenders, and how big the step up is with regard to the linebackers and defensive linemen you face now?

A

Obviously everybody’s a little bit stronger, bigger and faster, but you’re still playing against human beings. It’s not like it’s impossible or anything like that. I can still do the stuff that I did in college,.It still works. It is a little more difficult, so you have to make sure that when you get an opportunity, you capitalize on it, because you don’t get as many chances in the game to make things happen. You just have to be ready when you get the chance. I mean that in the sense that the game is faster and that there’s a smaller margin of error, but also because I don’t get as many reps on the field. It’s still football; it’s still what I’ve been doing for my whole life.

Q

You had your first practice Monday in preparation for the Bills game. Could you talk about the role you think you may play, and whether we’ll see you at running back or special teams?

A

I’ll definitely be contributing on all of the special teams, and you might see me in the backfield a little bit as well backing up Frank Gore. We have a couple days here to figure things out and make final depth changes, things like that. I definitely think that there’s a possibility that I’ll get time in the backfield on Sunday.

Q

What have your roles been on special teams?

A

I’m back there as an off returner or kick returner, I’m part of the coverage unit on punts, getting down the field and trying to make tackles on punts and kickoffs. On punt return, I just try to block the punt.

Q

What’s it been like playing alongside the other running backs, especially Frank Gore?

A

It’s been really cool. We can all learn from each other. Frank is obviously an 11-year veteran, so he has more experience than all of us combined. It’s been cool to see what he does on the field and try to make yourself a better football player.

Q

A lot of the veterans have been NFL legends since you were young. What’s it been like to now share a field with those players?

A

The NFL seems like more of a fairytale when you’re a little kid, and as you get through the levels it becomes more of a realistic possibility. Once I got to my senior year and went through all that stuff, I realized that I actually had a chance to make it. Once you get here, it seems like it’s not really so far-fetched anymore. Now that I’m here, and I’ve trained my abilities up to the point where I can compete with these guys, it’s not as crazy as it may seem to everybody else. Obviously it’s cool, definitely, but I feel more of a sense of accomplishment than anything, because this is now the last level of football that there is.

Q

What would you say your personal goals are heading into the regular season?

A

I just take things one day at a time here, trying to understand our schemes and everything on a weekly basis. I just want to get better every day in practice, stay healthy. I think more long-term, my goal is to say at the end of the season that I’m a better football player than I was when I came in here. That’ll help me stay in the league, and that’ll allow me to help us win football games.

Q

That sounds a lot like a Tony Reno mindset.

A

Yeah, I’ve been trained that way for the last three years. I don’t really have a choice. It’s a good way to do it.

Q

Finally, many of us [on campus] have fantasy football drafts coming up, and your name has come up a few times. Could you make a case for why someone might want to draft you?

A

(Laughs) I feel like I’m a versatile player. Especially in the back returning kicks, I can add value there. I catch the ball in the backfield well, so if I’m in there as a third down back, I can tack on the receiving yards. They might use me in short yardage situations, so if we’re at the goal line, you might see me with the ball. A few people at Yale have mentioned [fantasy drafts] to me. It’s kind of cool to even see that people can do that. We’re all in Madden too. It’s pretty cool.