NFL Draft Prospect Interview – Tyler Gaffney, RB Stanford

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Oct 19, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney (25) is brought down by the UCLA Bruins defense during the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. Stanford won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

PS: What’s the game where you feel like this is what teams are getting from Tyler Gaffney?

TG: Oregon, I think that’s a pretty good representation of the persistence, the determination of you know, just wearing down a defense with your first carry and being just as strong as your 45th carry.  It’s something that I’ve conditioned for this season to be able to carry the ball a lot.  Did I think it was going to be 45 carries in a game?  Hell no, but I was ready for whatever coach asked me to do.

PS: How did you feel on Sunday after that game?

TG: Surprisingly, I wasn’t terrible, but I had bruises in places I never knew existed.  Anywhere you can get a bruise I guess in football, it happened.

PS: You had 3 games of at least 33 carries and at least 145 yards in each of those games.  What does that say?

TG: Every defense knows what play we’re running.  You know; Power.  It’s gonna be here in the A or B gap.  We have 8 OLinemen on the field, a quarterback, fullback and myself; they knew what we’re doing.  And I think people forget that everyone knows we are running the ball and somehow we’re still getting 6 yards a carry, 7 yards a carry.  It takes the guys up front to make a little room.  I tell all them, I pride myself on getting those couple extra yards after contact; never letting that first guy make the tackle.

PS: Is it a sore spot that you didn’t get a touchdown against Washington State?

TG: Not at all.  I felt like that was one of the tougher we were running til, I didn’t think I played the whole second half; maybe even a little bit of the second quarter.  The defense had a couple touchdowns; we started to get the younger guys in there.  They’d get the ball once, there would be a gap and the other team’s a little bit tired and they score.  I was happy to be I guess the elder running back watching the young guys.

PS: Yea, but you got a touchdown in every single other game.  That’s the one sort of hole in the resumé.

TG: It would have been nice, but looking back on it, until you told me, I didn’t even really remember that.

PS: Was Michigan State the toughest defense you’ve gone against in your career?

TG: Definitely.  With athletes, with personnel, with their scheme, they’re smart in the way they play.  They had the luxury of having two all-star cornerbacks who could be out on an island where you have nine other players playing in the box, ready for the run.  And when you have a couple weeks to prepare against the one way we run, it’s gonna be a battle.  It’s one you hate to see that we lost.

PS: More frustrating loss: That or USC?

TG: Down in SoCal is my hometown.  Losing to USC, I know far too many people at USC.  That was a tough one to swallow.  Especially because we had the game in our hands and just one thing led to another and unsuccessful and I had to hear about it for a while there.  That was the first time I lost to USC.

PS: How frustrating was the loss to Utah?

TG: It’s one of those games that we definitely didn’t overlook.  Some things weren’t working for us in our offense.  We were being pretty persistent in running the same plays, but we weren’t running them as successfully as we normally do.  There were things you’d like to change.  Everyone points to the last couple plays of the game where we should have passed instead of ran or we should have ran instead of passed.  You know, you’re right if they score; just one of those games you try to forget about because on paper, there’s no way we should have lost, but the best team who shows up wins the game; not the best team beforehand.

PS: What was the most satisfying win of your career?

TG: I was a part of the USC triple overtime my sophomore season in 2011 and to go into triple overtime with that highly touted of a team and being able to pull it off with a fumble recovery was something else.  To see 100,000 fans in the Coliseum go completely quiet and to hear this little, tiny section over there in the corner of Stanford fans was a very surreal experience.

PS: In the year you played professional baseball, did you miss football?  Did it wear on you?

TG: No, I’m all in.  Whenever I do things, I’m 100%.  Even when I was playing two sports at once, I was only football during football season and only baseball during baseball season.  I really focused on being a baseball player.  Yea, Penn State was around and they love their football up there, which occasionally got into the back of my head, but I was focused on the task at hand and trying to be the best player on our team.

PS: What is the biggest benefit of playing baseball as it helps you with football?

TG: I think I grew up a little bit where having a short memory in baseball is huge.  You can’t let an 0-4 day turn into an 0-8 weekend and then maybe a 1 for 30 week.  You need to stop it right there, forget about it and move on and ride it when it’s hot.  Compiling negatives on top of each other is not doing any good for anybody.  When you go out there and play football, you maybe have a bad play, you can’t let that affect any other plays.  You need to stay on your path and learn from the next one.

PS: Were you happy with your performance at the scouting combine?

TG: Yea, I was happy.  I ran about as fast as I thought I could run in the 40.  I had been running faster in the drills, the L cone, and the short shuttle than I showed at the combine, but I’m okay with those times.  Being out there and just showing everybody I’m more of an athlete than they thought I was, was the big focus to open some eyes, because when you run a power offense, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to hit the home run and to show them in front of 32 GMs,coaches, running back coaches, head coaches.   To show them what I have and what I can do is really what I strived for at the combine.

PS: But you touched on the key issue when you said you wanted to prove to people you were more of an athlete than they thought you were.  So, have you been criticized by people saying that you simply don’t play as fast as you timed?

TG: I’ve gotten feedback I guess, positive and negative.  Both of which from game film and from the combine, and you know, people can think what they want.  I always told everyone I knew that I was faster than you think.  I played multiple sports growing up, just probably like any other football player, playing baseball.  I’m an athlete.  I pride myself on being an athlete, you know, being athletic.  But when Coach asks you to do a certain thing, I’m not gonna do my own thing.  I’m gonna run power how it’s supposed to be run and that’s downhill and lowering the shoulder.

PS: It seemed like Stepfan Taylor ran into the same criticism last year and he looked like he had some pretty good burst in the open field and you do as well.  With those tight splits you guys run and the way the offense works, if you go full speed off of the hand off, you’re running up your guard’s back I gotta think.

TG: Exactly.  And when I was saying there are 8 OLinemen on the field, that means there’s about 10 defensive players in the box as well, so you’re looking at 18, 19 players all within a 10 yard by 10 yard square.  If guys were lying on the ground, it might even be hard to get through there even if they weren’t trying to tackle you.  There’s not a lot of room like you said.  Being patient is huge in the power game and it becomes a feel of how the hole is supposed to hit.

PS: You are getting a double major in psychology and sociology.  What would you like to do with those?

TG: I haven’t thought all that hard about it being in baseball and football, but what I’d love to do is something where I’m public speaking whether it’s broadcasting, influential speaking, talking to a crowd, lobbying.  Kinda convincing people toward a certain goal or do something for a company.  I’d love to be the spokesman for that.

PS: Has you been able to use it to your benefit?

TG: Oh… yea.  In baseball, I was pegged a record amount of times in minor league, at Stanford.  Everyone knew that I was Hit By Pitch and we all know that maybe half were on accident, but maybe half were on purpose, but it was just the way I played.  You know, if they’re pegging me on purpose, that’s a free base and maybe if I steal, I turn one pitch into a double pretty much and that’s how you help your team win.

PS: Playing so many different sports and at different levels, is there a high school coach or college assistant that stands out to you as having helped you in your development?

TG: Yea, my freshman football coach actually, Coach Joe Kilroy, he told me as a freshman, that was my first year playing football, that I should not let anybody tell me what I can and can’t do.  If I wanted to be a running back, because I was playing linebacker at the time, if I wanted to be a running back, do it and you’ll be successful.  If I wanted to be a linebacker or safety, do it because you’ll be successful.

So I think ever since that was said to me as what, you’re 14 years old then, I’ve really carried that with me and I haven’t let anyone tell me what I can and can’t do in regards of sports or even life.  If I’m striving towards something, I’m gonna make it happen.

PS: Since your brother plays Rugby an you play football, who thinks they are the tougher guy?

TG: My brother is definitely the tougher guy because he had to deal with getting beat up by me as we grew up, and an All-Star Rugby player speaks for itself.

PS: Coach Shaw isn’t ever leaving Stanford, is he?

TG: You know, I doubt it.  He loves everything about Stanford.  He’s not the type of guy that money makes the difference, but then again, tens of millions of dollars seems to persuade most minds, so you can never count your chickens before they’re hatched.

TG: I’ve done some of that stuff back home.  I love helping out little kids to be honest.  It’s something that really hits home.  When I was a kid and I saw anybody of any importance and I was stoked, whether they could teach me something, we could play a game.  You know, I think that’s real big to give that part in the community where that’s something I really enjoy.

PS: Your dad played baseball at the University of San Diego.  Was he more excited about your baseball achievements or football specifically because he did not play it.

TG: That’s the thing with my parents.  They’re Team Tyler and Team Drew, who is my brother.  Whatever we put our head down to do, they supported it as much as they supported anything else we did.

PS: Which means more to you?  Team MVP or National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete of the Year?

TG: I appreciate the scholar, but MVP is something voted on by your team and to gain the respect of your teammates is probably the best thing you can do being a part of a team.  Whether winning, losing, whatever, if you can gain the respect of all your teammates, you are gonna be successful and you are going to be that guy, you know that everyone remembers that everyone respected.

PS: What is a team getting from Tyler Gaffney?

TG: You’re getting a tough dude.  Somebody who’s got some personality, but is going to work through whatever.  Whatever the coach needs from me, I’m going to make happen because throughout my years, I‘ve been told I wasn’t good enough to play baseball, I wasn’t good enough to come back and play football.  Whatever I needed to make happen or coach needed me to do, I made happen and I will continue to do so.

– In many ways, Tyler Gaffney has gotten to do what most people wish they could.  He got to play two sports he loved in college and the second he steps into an NFL training camp, a chance to play professionally in both as well.  It remains to be seen how far he can go in the NFL, but his entire career has been fueled in part by doubt and proving people he is better than they thought.  Good luck to Tyler as he pursues his NFL dream.  Here is my breakdown of Gaffney and what I feel he brings to the NFL.