Football’s Tyler Loos has been on the sidelines of the MAC Championship game for 4 years, but that’s changing Friday


By Frank Gogola

For Tyler Loos, redshirt senior left tackle, the fifth time’s the charm.

Loos missed the Huskies’ MAC title game each of the last four seasons due to redshirting or being sidelined with injuries. He’ll see his first MAC Championship game action when the Huskies (10-2, 7-1 MAC) take on the Bowling Green Falcons (7-5, 5-3 MAC) 6 p.m. Friday at Ford Field in Detroit.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Loos said. “We’ve been there five years in a row. This is my first time even traveling to the game. It’ll be a good environment to play in. I’m excited to be in my first championship.”

Loos and season-ending injuries are an all-too-common combination. After redshirting his freshman year, his next three seasons ended with him rehabbing from an injury instead of being able to help his teammates in the MAC Championship and bowl games.

In each of Loos’ first four seasons he never made the trip to Detroit. He would watch the Huskies play on television at his apartment or back at home in Sterling.

“It’s rough,” Loos said. “It doesn’t feel good at all. It’s pretty frustrating just knowing I can’t be there to help my team out at all, just being at home either by myself or with my family if I was back home.”

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Loos suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the first week of training camp his redshirt freshman campaign. The injury shelved him for the entire 2011 season.

Loos returned from that injury and was ready to go for his second season of eligibility. He made his first career start against the Iowa Hawkeyes Sept. 1, 2012, at Soldier Field in Chicago. He started at left tackle for the first 11 games before suffering a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg Nov. 14, 2012, against the Toledo Rockets at Huskie Stadium.

That injury turned out to be the worst of the three Loos would endure as he had to have a titanium rod inserted in his leg from his knee to his ankle. The rod remains there, and although the doctors told him he could get it taken out, he prefers to leave it in for two reasons: for extra support and because he doesn’t want to undergo yet another surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“That [rod] gave me a lot of problems,” Loos said. “Last season I was in a lot of pain. This year it’s been better, but it took probably at least a year to go get close to normal.”

Loos returned to the field in 2013, starting in the Huskies’ first nine games. But, he once again saw his season end early as he went down with a broken fibula in his left leg, a dislocated left ankle and a torn deltoid ligament in his left ankle Nov. 2, 2013, against the Massachusetts Minutemen.

“Since I’ve been hurt a lot I kind of know what to expect, unfortunately,” Loos said. “It’s tough because regular guys, they don’t get hurt and they get to keep getting better and better in progressing. And then I get set back and I have to work back again, and it’s just been frustrating that it keeps happening.”

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Loos thought about ending his collegiate playing career after his third injury in as many seasons. That thought didn’t last long.

“I decided I’d probably regret it if I didn’t come back and play,” Loos said. “I love playing the game, and I love being around my teammates and playing, so I wanted to give it another shot.”

Deciding to come back was the easy part. Working his way back for the third time was the tough part.

When Loos was able to put weight on his leg he began his rehab by running on a treadmill in the pool as the water helped put less pressure on the lower body of his 6-foot-5, 302-pound frame. He then began to jog outside, do football position drills coming out of his stance and rejoined the team during fall camp, practicing with the first-team offense. He still gets treatment every day after practice and then once in the morning.

“Any time a guy can come back from those kinds of injuries, not just once but multiple times, it’s pretty incredible,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Hare. “It shows a true testament to what kind of guy he is. He’s awesome.”

Head coach Rod Carey said most people don’t come back from one, much less two, of the injuries Loos suffered the second and third times.

“It’s a credit to him more than anything,” Carey said. “He’s got to be in really rarified air. So, it talks about his toughness and his love of this game is what it really does.”

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Loos was ready to go for the season opener Aug. 28 against the Presbyterian Blue Hose, which turned out be a 55-3 rout. He wasn’t back to being 100 percent, but he continued to fight through the non-conference schedule.

“Being a fifth-year senior and dealing with what he’s dealt with, a lot of people could have tanked it, but he hasn’t,” said offensive line coach Joe Tripodi. “He’s worked at it. It was back after the Arkansas game he really locked in. We had that two-week bye, and you could see he had his two best weeks of practice probably of his career.”

Loos had been getting in the swing of things, rotating in and out with other linemen. He didn’t like that; he “wanted to play every down in every game” and used that as motivation following the loss to Arkansas to practice harder and become better than he ever was.

“I think, especially lately, he’s playing some of probably the best football of his life,” Carey said. “He’s sudden. He’s striking people. His feet are moving. His eyes are up, and his understanding of the game is going really good, too. I think he’s playing physical with a good pad level. To me he’s as good as any o-lineman in this league, and I honestly believe that.”

Loos doesn’t have time to think about suffering another injury when he’s on the field. The thought will pop into his head only “for a split second” when he feels somebody on the back of his legs. But then it’s on to the next play.

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Despite Loos ending last two seasons late in the year, he and redshirt junior left guard Aidan Conlon have developed an understanding over the years that’s allowed them to build a wall on the left side of the offensive line.

“We’ve been right next to each other for kind of a couple years now, so the camaraderie and the communication that we have with each other is just great,” Conlon said. “I wouldn’t really rather play with anyone else. He’s a good dude. Sometimes we don’t even have to communicate because we know what’s going on and everything, so it’s definitely a next-level kind of thing with just how much experience we have with each other.”

With Loos at left tackle, Hare said he never has to worry about taking a blindsided hit. He said the protection the entire offensive line affords him — especially Loos protecting his blindisde — is “the best thing” a quarterback could ask for.

To offensive coordinator Bob Cole, Loos has looked much better this season than in the past and his performance has been off the charts for someone who had to fight back from the number and the severity of the injuries Loos has endured. He gave Loos grades of A’s across the board.

“He’s moving like a running back up front,” Cole said. “He’s got great feet, he’s a physical kid [and] is just having a hell of a year. He stands out on film. I’m happy for him. He went through a lot to get to where he is right now. It’s fun to see him having the year he’s having.”

Through 12 games Loos is injury free, and his dedication and drive has paid off as he’s helped anchor a veteran offense that’s been a big reason for the Huskies’ 10-2 record and trip to the MAC Championship game. This time, for the first time in his career, Loos will be with the Huskies, playing in the MAC Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit, a feeling that he could only imagine being “awesome.”