From Crusader Nation to NFL

 

Tyler Conklin waited, surrounded by family and friends and singularly focused. When his cell phone finally rang, he walked through the sea of people to take the call that would set the trajectory of his life. After a brief but impactful conversation, he walked back into the party to hear the words he had been waiting for.

“With the 157th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, our Minnesota Vikings select Tyler Conklin, tight end, Central Michigan University.”

On April 18 years of ambition and hard work came to fruition for Tyler, but his journey from Crusader Nation to the NFL was not an easy one. Just a few years prior, he was neither a tight end, a Central Michigan Chippewa or even a football player. All he had was grit.

Tyler graduated from L’Anse Creuse High School — North in 2013 and headed up to Midland to play basketball on a scholarship at Northwood University. He had played both basketball and football throughout his high school career, but at that time he felt like basketball was his game. After playing eight games at Northwood he felt it wasn’t the right fit, and worried he had sold himself short.

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After a few conversations with the football coaches at Central Michigan University, he left behind a full-ride scholarship in basketball to try walking on the football team. Though some doubted his decision, he felt it was a pivotal step in his pursuit to achieving his life-long goal of becoming a professional athlete, something that he knew many kids talk about but few achieve.

Tyler didn’t find a quick, easy street to his dreams at CMU. Switching schools and walking on meant he had to spend time on the bench, conditioning and training rather than playing in the games. He switched positions from wide receiver to tight end, bulked up, and by the time he arrived at his junior year he was ready to shine. Shine is exactly what he did. His first game ever as a Chippewa was one of his best, with 100 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler’s performance his junior year put him in in the Top 10 for tight ends in the nation.

Just as it seemed like the stars were starting to align for Tyler, on the first day of football camp his senior year, the unthinkable happened. He suffered a Jones Fracture, a break in the foot that makes it difficult to return to the game. This may have stopped some, but not Tyler. After eight weeks he was back on the field, playing well and getting the attention of all the right people. As a result, he was invited to play in the Senior Bowl.

Tyler graduated from CMU in December 2017. From there he played the Senior Bowl, trained hard, and performed well at the NFL combine. Four months later he was drafted in the fifth round. He expects that his success story is just getting started.

“At the end of the day it comes down to you believing in yourself, you wanting to make it happen more than anything else.”

This summer Tyler came back to where it all started to talk to current Crusader football stars. He explained his story, even the not-so-glamorous parts. He didn’t sugarcoat the process and explained what it really takes: courage, determination, a strong support system and the ability to get back up, dust yourself off and make it happen.

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“Whenever you think you are working hard enough, you can always work a little harder.”

 

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