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Finals week—oh, and NFL draft week—for Tyler Varga

On Monday, Tyler Varga ’15, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, presented his thesis at Osborn Memorial Laboratories on Science Hill, the culmination of months of research focused on Type 2 diabetes. But as all-consuming as that might seem, he has had other things on his mind, too.

At this weekend’s NFL draft in Chicago, Varga could also become Yale’s highest draft pick since Jeff Rohrer ’82 was picked in the second round. With the potential to be selected anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds, the Swedish-born, Canadian-bred running back has the best chance of any recent Bulldog to make the leap to the pros.

Yet, just days before the draft, Varga was engaging in a time-honored Yale tradition: discussing his end-of-semester workload. After walking professors through his thesis on Monday, Varga had a final on Tuesday; by midweek, he still had two more final projects to complete. But he has no complaints. “It’s not too bad,” he claims. “I’ve finished a lot of my work already.”

The commitment isn’t surprising for someone with a 3.56 GPA who is interested in eventually attending medical school, but it’s impressive considering the added pressure on his schedule over the last few months. Varga, a 5' 11", 224-pound titan, has managed to keep it together during a whirlwind final semester that included a January appearance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, a February trip to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, and his personal pro day in March, where the senior worked out for 28 interested NFL teams. “I’m being compared to guys who are doing football full time right now, so I think I’ve performed well so far,” he says. “It’s been a cool ride, and I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Varga traces a major jump in his interest from NFL scouts back to his performance against Army in September, where he rushed for 185 yards and an eye-popping five touchdowns on 28 carries, including a three-yard touchdown run in overtime that delivered Yale to a stunning 49–43 upset. “But I think teams have been following all along,” he explains. “And, obviously we had a great year as a team. Overall, it was the culmination of a bunch of different things.”

After the surprise announcement of his transfer from the University of Western Ontario in 2012, where he led Canadian Interuniversity Sport in scoring as a freshman, Varga immediately made an impact at Yale—a deus ex machina sent to turn a floundering Yale football program around. While the tale of the heralded recruit often fails to pan out as expected, Varga surpassed all expectations. With a combination of bruising power and a remarkable ability to pick up significant yards after contact, he amassed 31 career rushing touchdowns and 2,985 career rushing yards, good for third- and fourth-best in Yale history, respectively. Not bad for a transfer who arrived at the Bowl as a sophomore and missed half of his junior season with injury.

With the workouts, interviews, and college seasons behind him, all Varga can do now is watch. “I can’t influence my draft stock any further at this point—at least positively,” he says, laughing.

In the midst of finals, he’ll monitor the draft this weekend from the athletic department’s Ray Tompkins House, where he’ll be surrounded by the teammates who helped bring him to this moment. ESPN will be there on Saturday, when the fourth through seventh rounds will take place, to capture the reaction if and when Varga hears his name called.

Then, Varga might allow himself to exhale. Or maybe not. After all, finals run until May 7.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Tyler Varga, football, NFL


  • Joseph McCabe
    Joseph McCabe, 1:44am May 01 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Good luck,Tyler.You're fantastic.Questions:Going back,let's say,50 years to 1965,how many Yale players have been drafted by the pros? Who were they and their classes? How many years did each play in the pros?

  • Victor Sheronas
    Victor Sheronas, 2:34pm May 01 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Keep being unstoppable in all your life's endeavors! Keep increasing those yards after contact.

  • Bob from Burlington
    Bob from Burlington, 6:12pm May 01 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Good luck Tyler. I have followed him since his days at Western University(they changed names from UWO where I did two stints 25 plus and 35 years ago).

    It is our hope that a team like Buffalo Bills take him- although typically they will pick players that have no chance of starting in the third and fourth rounds. Tyler will be an ideal special teams starter and was raved about both on the Senior Bowl television broadcast by the NFL network and the Sirius radio version(including post game show) by folks that had not seen him play much previously.

    Thanks Yale Bulldogs for allowing Tyler the chance to play in Ivy League ball!

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