USC's Marc Tyler Back In Action
After three years of fighting through injuries — a broken leg (plus surgery), sprained hip, sprained toe (plus surgery) — no one would have blamed Marc Tyler if he had given up.
But that wasn't the plan for the redshirt junior tailback at USC.
Tyler's football career began at the age of six, when he started playing flag football. He started tackle football a year later and hasn't looked back. Football, it seems, came very naturally to the Lancaster, Calif., native. His father, Wendell Tyler, played running back at UCLA in the mid 70s, and competed for nearly a decade in the NFL, so it was no surprise the young Tyler picked up the game.
"My dad played for long time and football has always just been something I grew up around. I always wanted to play," Marc Tyler said. "I think I started off playing basketball, but then football came along."
During his middle school career, Tyler began developing into the star player he dreamed of being. In the "Super Bowl" game of his eighth grade Pop Warner league, Tyler posted an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Later in the game, he threw for a touchdown.
So, it was off to high school for Tyler. His parents decided to send him to Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., just shy of 80 miles away from his hometown. And while it was a new environment for the high school freshman, football provided comfort and familiarity, and he had no problem fitting in.
"When I first got there, it was a little weird, different area definitely," Tyler said. "I think I practiced with the J.V. team for like 30 minutes, then they put me on the varsity [team]."
He started his high school career playing wide receiver and linebacker. During his sophomore year, he moved to an offense-only role, playing wide receiver and running back. He racked up some big numbers that season: 802 yards rushing with 12 TDs and caught 37 passes for 830 yards with 12 TDs.
But in his junior year, the starting running back job was his and he wouldn't let it go. He established himself as one of the top high school running backs in the country with numbers like this: 2,196 yards rushing with 45 TDs and had 28 receptions for 413 yards with 6 TDs.
The accolades piled in — USA Today All-USA first team, Parade All-American, EA Sports All-American first team, Super Prep All-American — and Tyler continued to grow as a player. During his senior year, he rushed for a cool 1,700 yards, but also posted 51 tackles as a linebacker. Before season's end, though, Tyler would suffer his first major injury: a broken leg just before the playoffs of his senior season.
Tyler committed to attend USC and focused on getting ready for his collegiate career. Tyler's father, a UCLA alum, was completely supportive of his son's decision to attend his alma mater's crosstown rival.
Tyler puts it simply: "He wanted me to go where I wanted to go."
Coming into the USC program, Tyler was rated the No. 2 high school running back in the country (behind Joe McKnight, who also attended USC) by Rivals.com. That type of recognition gave Tyler much hope for his collegiate career, but after breaking his leg, his progress was slow and the Trojans redshirted him.
"It was hard to sit out. I expected to come in and play early. It ended up being a humbling experience as I had to sit out to watch and learn from the other guys," Tyler said to USCTrojans.com. "But it turned out to be a good thing because working with the scout team made me a lot better."
The next year in 2008, Tyler had a chance to show what he could do. Coming off the bench, he appeared in eight games and posted 198 yards rushing on 36 attempts. However, he suffered a sprained hip during the middle of the season and missed three games because of it. As frustrating as this was, he continued to work hard and showed up in 2009 with the plan of being a regular in the running back rotation. But once again, an injury presented a roadblock. This time, he sprained his toe before USC's second game of the season and had to have surgery, missing the entire season.
The talented running back was three years into his collegiate career, but had only gotten to carry the ball 41 times (he had 431 total carries in his four-year high school career). Tyler considered his options. Transfer and get a fresh start at a new school? Take up defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's suggestion that he switch to defense? Or, work hard and do what he came to do: make his mark as a running back and graduate from USC?
"My parents really wanted me to graduate from USC. That's why I came here and I know, if you graduate from here, you can be successful," Tyler said. "This summer I worked really hard just knowing that this is my redshirt junior year, and I had to get on the field some way. After camp this summer, it all worked out."
And on September 2, 2010, Marc Tyler started at running back for the USC Trojans as they took on the Hawai'i Warriors in the season opener.
Asked to reflect on the game, Tyler said: "Just being out there and running for 150-something [yards], breaking for that long touchdown run and to get in that end zone again, the [hard work] paid off."
He finished the opener with 154 yards rushing on 17 carries, and scored one touchdown on an electric 44-yard run. Since then, Tyler has started four out of five of USC's game this season, most recently against Washington.
Tyler now fully appreciates each moment he spends as a Trojan, noting that the pre-game traditions at home is an aspect he will never forget.
"It's crazy just walking through the Trojan Walk before the game," Tyler said. "It's a feeling that you can't really explain, it gives you goosebumps. It's a good feeling."
It's been a long road for Tyler, but the journey isn't over.
"It definitely was a hard three years sitting and watching, being injured and not traveling with the team. I had never experienced that. But now it feels good, it feels like I'm back out there," he said. "Just to be sore on Sunday, it feels good knowing that I did something. It feels good just to be a part of it."