Calvin Tyler Jr. wasn’t the first athlete to ask why an injury happened to him when his 2018 football season was taken away.
Making a diagonal cut while running the ball in fall camp resulted in the Oregon State running back tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
In just one moment, the opportunity to immediately continue playing the game that he loves was gone. But Tyler had his faith to fall back on when he received the bad news.
“I know everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I know he’s going to put me back on my feet to be successful and go through trials and tribulations.”
He also leaned on his teammates and coaches as he learned he would be off the field for an extended period for the first time in his life.
Tyler’s playing career wasn’t over, but it would take a lot of work to get back. He says it took him about two weeks to adjust to the idea that he wouldn’t be playing again right away.
Tyler, listed at 5-foot-8, 203 pounds, credits his running back group and position coach Michael Pitre for helping him through the process.
“They just kept me up, kept me grinding, made sure I stayed level-headed,” he said. “Didn’t go away from the game, just stayed with the game. That man right there, coach Pitre, I thank him a lot.”
Pitre, in his second year with the program, says Tyler’s “big personality” makes it easy to like and root for the redshirt sophomore and aspiring professional bull rider from Texas.
The coach saw soon after he entered the program Tyler’s love for football, and he knows it was mentally difficult to have it taken away.
Tyler credits a physical therapist and the football training staff for helping him get back, which he did on a full-time basis at the start of the Beavers’ training camp last week.
“It’s been really exciting to see him back out here, because I think his passion for the game rubs off on the other guys in the room in how he goes about his business,” Pitre said.
But not before Tyler sweated hard through rehabilitation and numerous workouts aimed at getting his knee healthy again. His goal of returning was within reach, and he wanted it in a hurry.
Tyler’s work in the winter allowed him to return to the field for a few drills in a couple spring practices. He showed himself — and everyone else in the program — that he was headed in the right direction.
“Seeing my guys running the ball, it motivated me to get back out there, try to get back to the level,” he said. “So I did a couple things, but I didn’t push myself too much.”
The training and dedication to improving — fueled by his desire to play again — continued through the summer.
The chance to play again was his.
“He came back as a leader. Talking and picking us up, picking our intensity up and his energy has been very good through practice,” said teammate Jermar Jefferson. “He’s looking a lot better. He’s been working hard, doing extra stuff to get his knee right.”
OSU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said he too has been glad to see Tyler and the energy he brings return to the field.
Lindgren said he looks for the running back to continue making “big jumps” through camp. But, based on his observations, he’s not sure Tyler is completely healthy just yet.
“I think it’s just a matter of him getting back into the groove of practice, getting into shape of taking those reps and getting comfortable with the run schemes that we’re doing," Lindgren said.
Tyler made the most of his limited opportunities as a freshman in 2017.
He carried the ball just three times for 11 yards. But he averaged better than 20 yards on nine kickoff returns, including a season-best 24-yarder in the season opener at Colorado State.
“I feel like I didn’t show a lot what I could do, but it was really good,” Tyler said. “It helped me get an edge and get comfortable. Knowing it’s a faster game and able to adjust.”
That made the 2018 injury, so close to the first game, hard to take.
Tyler said the cut he made that led to his injury was “wrong.” He said he has since learned how to use his body weight to make cuts and how to be agile while running the ball.
Now back on the field, Tyler said he’s “100 percent, I feel 110 percent.”
When and how much he’ll be able to show the progress he’s made since a year ago in live games will be up the coaching staff. But Tyler will be ready.
“Whatever way I can help my team I’m willing to do,” he said.