Kyle Gardner is a competitor.

So not getting an opportunity to get on the football field last season at Oregon State was tough.

And when he saw he was down on the depth chart after spring practice, Gardner, a Crescent Valley High grad, knew he had to do some soul searching.

“I was third string after the spring and it was not looking like I was going to get a whole lot of playing time,” Gardner, a walk-on linebacker, said Tuesday afternoon. “And the biggest thing for me, I love playing football, love the game of football.”

Following the spring, Gardner met with linebackers coach Trent Bray, who Gardner said told him, “if you want to be that big-role guy like you were in high school that I know you want to be, I can help you find somewhere to go to get a scholarship.”

So Gardner began the process at looking into transferring to get an opportunity to get on the field.

When all was said and done, Gardner’s made an interesting choice in Portland State, the same school he turned down a scholarship offer from out of high school so he could live out his dream of playing for the Beavers.

Gardner will join the Vikings this fall and will have three years of eligibility. With PSU being a Football Championship Subdivision school, he can play right away.

“It is kind of interesting,” Gardner said. “They were real cool with me out of high school when recruiting me and when I told them I was going to go to OSU. They were upset but coach (Nigel) Burton said, ‘you know what? If you ever change your mind there will always be a spot here for you so don’t hesitate to call.’ ”

Gardner didn’t really need to make the call, it turns out.

“They were all over it. I didn’t email them or anything,” Gardner said. “They saw my release and they were calling me right away, like two or three calls as soon as I got the release. They were real excited.

“They just said, ‘let us know what we can do to get you here.’ ”

Gardner said he thinks he can make an impact and help the Vikings immediately.

“My plan is to go in and start,” he said. “I have no other intention than to go in there and take a starting job.”

Gardner said the Vikings’ defense is similar to OSU’s so he shouldn’t need to learn too much.

He’s also excited to play for linebackers coach Lester Towns, a Washington graduate who played five seasons in the NFL and was a defensive assistant at Alabama when the Crimson Tide won two national titles.

He will also be reunited with former Beaver Joe Lopez, a defensive lineman who has also transferred to PSU for the upcoming season.

And two CV grads — Bryon Bodon and Austin Powell — will be freshmen this season for the Vikings.

It wasn’t easy to leave OSU, and despite not seeing any playing time, Gardner said he has no regrets about his decision to be a Beaver out of high school.

“I’ve had the best couple years of my life here,” he said. “ I have great friends and learned a lot about football and improved a lot. ... I have been coached by some of the best in coach (Mike) Riley, coach (Mark) Banker and Bray is a great linebackers coach.

“It’s real hard because not playing hurts. That’s why I’m making this move. I’m a competitor. Not playing killed me. (But) I don’t regret it at all.”

Steve Gress is the sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at steve.gress@lee.net.

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

(1) comment

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