Tyler Varga’s Versatility And Blue Collar Style Would Mesh Well In Pittsburgh

At the annual NFL event known as the combine, or “Underwear Olympics,” players are poked and prodded in a variety of ways. They range from speed drills, strength exhibitions, to also being examined in a “meat market” fashion, as they get their body measurables recorded in a crowded room full of onlooking future employers, in their underwear nonetheless. For some players, it’s an absolute embarrassment (Terrence Cody, Andre Smith), where their lack of visits to the weight room and instead to the nearest McDonald’s or Papa John’s, are evident by their atrocious body fat levels.

This is not the case for Yale running back Tyler Varga, a 5-foot-10, 222-pound specimen from Canada whose physique holds true that if the NFL doesn’t pan out, he could easily have a future in “Muscle & Fitness” magazine or an ad for Calvin Klein. With a chiseled, ripped frame apparently made from granite by the Greek Gods themselves, Varga may not be even the most in-shape member of his own family, as both his parents were bodybuilders.

“My mom is from Finland, and my dad grew up in Croatia,” he said.

His father, John, a high school quarterback, shot down offers to play in college, and instead became one of the top amateur bodybuilders in the late 80s and early 90s. His mother, Hannele Sundberg, has an impressive resume as well,  as she played on the national rugby team for Sweden, and now is an Alpine ski competitor.

“In 1990, my dad was named Mr. Eastern Canada, and my mom was once crowned Miss International. Both are intense competitors, and they have certainly passed along their knowledge to me,” Tyler said.

With such an impressive build, coupled with parents who competed in the sport, it’s hard to fathom Tyler didn’t begin taking weightlifting seriously until five years ago, where his love of sports developed.

“My life without athletics would be very difficult to imagine,” Varga said. “But of the all the sports I played, my deepest love was for football.”

He credits his passion for the game from, you guessed it, his quarterback father, John.

“I’ve seen him throw the ball 75 yards,” Varga said. “We started playing catch in our front yard when I was around five with one of those Nerf footballs. I would always tell him to throw it at me as hard as he could, even though it would knock me down.”

Eventually he signed up, and youth flag football ultimately led to tackle football, where he noted how much he loved the physicality aspect of the sport.

And here’s a very interesting tidbit about playing football in Canada-they have both fall and spring football.

“So if you think about it, some Canadian kids get twice the playing experience of someone who is brought up in the American system,” Varga said. “I had 12 seasons of football under my belt by the time I graduated from high school. I think that’s really contributed to my awareness and vision as a runner.”

That’s a boatload of experience, and he eventually landed at Yale, where this past season his 1,423 yards were the third most in school history. Possessing a 3.56 GPA in Pre-Med/Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, he was selected as captain of the North squad in the Senior Bowl, where he stood out as well, scoring two touchdowns. With the combine now under way, leading up to it has been trying to fit a puzzle together for him, with balancing classes, labs, and combine prep. So a quick pick me-up from Burger King won’t hurt, right? Wrong.

“Nutrition is an essential component of athletics that is often overlooked, and it’s something that has the potential to seriously elevate your performance if taken seriously,” he said.

Since Christmas, his diet has mainly consisted of egg whites, oatmeal, chicken breasts, pasta and protein shakes.

“I put the same food in my body every day because it allows my body to become as efficient as possible,” he noted. “There are no secrets to this diet, but I can tell you one thing: Discipline is the key ingredient. If you want extreme outcomes, you need to take extreme measures.”

With the NFL Combine currently underway, it’s time to see how Varga stacks up against some of the competition, but does his NFL position lie at running back or fullback? If he posts a slow 40 time, fullback is a position he could get pegged as, although he possesses some of the qualities of a good ball carrier.

“Everybody always automatically tags me as a slower back because I’m big,” Varga said. “Am I like a 4.4 or 4.3 second guy in the 40-yard dash? Probably not. But I’m really good within a 10-yard box.”

He immediately conjures up images of a Peyton Hillis, Jacob Hester or Danny Woodhead-type, a Swiss Army Knife type of player who could essentially be a backup runner, as well as play fullback in a pinch. He possesses a strong lower body to blast through traffic in between the tackles, but also shows a knack for cutting on a dime and making defenders miss in space.

“My feet are pretty good, especially for someone my size. I make decisive cuts, and NFL coaches like one-cut guys. And I’ve got acceleration that can keep up with most guys,” he said.

His ability in the passing game should definitely have the attention of Pittsburgh steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and company, as he shows soft hands as well as a tenaciousness in pass protection. And his hands? They measured in at 10 5/8 inches at the combine, bigger than all the running backs and only a handful of offensive lineman. He’s currently nursing a minor ankle injury that will prevent him from running the 40, but his main goal is just to take everything in and enjoy it.

“Run fast, jump high and be an athlete,” he said. “I want to show teams that there is a lot that I can bring to the table as a member of their organization. I’m a versatile player, and I definitely feel like I can contribute on special teams. But most of all, I just want to play the game I love.”

With a need for a viable backup plan behind Le’Veon Bell, coupled with his versatility and intangibles, Varga seems tailor-made for the Steelers. A blue-collar, tough-nosed player just like the city, who doesn’t mind working for everything he’s got. A player who the front office won’t have to worry about at 2 am during the offseason. Yale has never been a football factory by any means, but Varga is one player from the small Ivy League school whose smarts and disciplinarian style should have the interest of many teams, particularly the Steelers.

  • Zumwalt Fan Club

    Pretty sure he compares to Hillis, Woodhead, etc because he is white..but Im a big fan. Smart, good character and I believe he can be a solid player..would love him around the 6th round.

  • Ben Saluri

    Why not Kuhn?

  • Zumwalt Fan Club

    Why not Kuhn what?

  • Terrible Towlie

    we rarely use a fb, so no Kuhn…he was already here once though so they can still be happy

  • JNick

    I don’t get his diet. Apparently he’s a nutrition freak except he eats no nutrient dense foods. Just a bunch of protein. The kid needs to forget what he “knows” about nutrition and sit down with a real nutritionist.

    Otherwise sounds like an intriguing prospect.

  • Trevor

    I’m sure those aren’t the only things he eats, just touching on the subject. At least I hope so.

  • Matt Manzo

    Someone needs to give him some kale!

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m so bummed he’s hurt! Is he not running any of the drills or just the 40?

  • JNick

    His “diet” reads like it’s out of the bodybuilder’s handbook. I’m guessing Dad taught him.

  • taztroy43

    Damn Langford if out of our 3rd round range

  • Chris Kule

    Well, I certainly would not say that Yale was never a football factory. Not lately, maybe, but they set the standard in the early days of the game and the program has more football victories than any school except Michigan. Against which it has a winning record.

  • Lambert58

    Love this kid. Sign me up for the 5th rd. He looked great at the Senior Bowl. I think he would be a big contributor for the B&G.

  • Ben Saluri

    To go along w/ Hillis, Hester etc..

  • Zumwalt Fan Club

    Because he is about 250 pounds and used as a FB, not HB.

  • Ben Saluri

    Dude, was referring to white running backs to your point.

  • SteelHorseman

    You know what I most wish? I wish that people would stop using the term “Underwear Olympics” and thinking it’s witty and creative and that the next person who puts the word gate after a scandal does a horrible death. Is that so much to ask for? I wouldn’t mind this Varga kid in the 5th round as a consolation though

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Bet you a beer this get is an overacheiver in anything he does. Interesting.

  • Stache

    my mock draft on fanspeak, I must say id be happy if it turned out this way
    22: R1P22

    56: R2P24


    MIAMI (OH)

    87: R3P23



    118: R4P22



    152: R5P24



    183: R6P23



    214: R7P22



  • AndyR34

    Awesome info! Thanks!

  • Brian Miller

    Any mock draft that DGB going in the 5th round has blown a gasket and I refuse to trust it.

  • Brian Miller

    Not sure how s team that has trouble figuring out how to use Archer would be able to utilize this guy correctly.

  • Zumwalt Fan Club

    I hate the players..but that is just me.

  • Stache

    haha he was the last rated prospect in this draft

  • taztroy43

    I like the kid but I rather have bells old teammate Langford or rb. D. Johnson who runs like bell in the 3rdrs or 4th rd

  • GoSteelerz

    I like Varga, who unfortunately hasn’t been able to do much at the combine, and I also like Zenner, I think we can get him in the later rounds, and he’s had a solid combine, looked versatile, good hands, running routes, etc…

  • johnhoien

    No wonder the Steelers talked to Varga.. Just watched his Yale 2014 highlights… The last 3 highlights or so he is picking up the blitzes and allowing his QB to pass cleanly.. Any back that can do this well and be a reliable utility player will turn some heads in Pitt.. He wouldn’t be storming off the sidelines before the games over either… Good 2nd on the depth chart.

  • NinjaMountie

    I think he’d make a great utility player. I still haven’t read about what his injury is. Sometimes an athlete can be over conditioned (or supplemented) and that can lead to frequent injuries.

  • keith evans

    he pulled a muscle in his back reaching for the curly Kale at the supermarket!

  • Steelers12328882

    I like Varga, but I can’t see him starting the first 2 weeks of the season for us. With Bell and Archer the 3rd guy has to be a very capable vet or a high(3rd) draft pick. That’s not Varga. He’s a 5th-6th rounder.

  • steeltown

    Varga and K.Williams are my two favorite late Rd guys, I think they would provide good value in the 5th or 6th