At the start of fall camp, redshirt junior running back Mark Tyler was so far down the depth chart at the tailback position that the four-year veteran was almost willing to sit out another season for the opportunity to play at another school arose.
“I’m not going to lie,” Tyler told the Los Angeles Times, “I wanted to leave.”
But Tyler, a back who knows all too well about resiliency and patience — as he was forced to redshirt his freshman year due to a broken leg sustained during an Oaks Christian High School playoff game in 2006, and missed the last ten games of 2009 because of a season-ending toe surgery — decided to listen to some wise advice.
That advice came in the form of his father, former UCLA star and Los Angeles Rams running back Wendell Tyler, who suggested that his son graduate from USC and make the most of his opportunity to play in a prestigious program led by Pat Haden.
Eager to prove that he belonged in the program as a running back and not as a linebacker, which defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin suggested just a few months ago, the former No.2 tailback recruit in the country has shown great growth and consistency since fall camp opened in early August.
The 5-foot 11-inch, 230-pound power back’s efforts have not been lost on USC coach Lane Kiffin, and in unlikely fashion the Lancaster native has made an improbable yet well-deserved leap to the top of the team’s running back rotation.
On Thursday, Tyler is set to make his first collegiate start against Hawaii, a debut that the junior feels more than justifies his decision to stay.
“That’s why I came to USC, to be the starting running back one day,” he said.
For his career, Tyler has amassed 270 yards on 41 rushes while also recording two rushing touchdowns.