Allgeier’s humble beginnings helped create opportunity for “The Play”
The 20-second video of BYU running back Tyler Allgeier chasing down an Arizona State linebacker after an interception and causing a fumble is one of the most viral clips in college football this season.
Like many Cougar fans, Bill Cardosi was watching the game on television.
Cardosi is Allgeier’s former football coach at Kaiser High School in Fontana, Calif. He said he can talk all day about Allgeier, and that’s no exaggeration.
“The first thing I did after that play was text our coaching staff,” Cardosi said. “I sent them Tyler’s name in all caps with lots of exclamation points. That play just sums up Tyler. Hustling after the guy to making the play and knocking the ball out, he was just saying, ‘I’m Tyler Allgeier.'”
Allgeier grew up in Fontana, Calif., a city of just over 200,000 in San Bernardino County about an hour east of Los Angeles. It was essentially a rural town until World War II, when Henry J. Kaiser built a large steel mill in the area. Fontana is now a regional hub for the trucking industry at the crossroads of Interstate 10, State Road 210 and Interstate 15.
The mill closed nearly 40 years ago. Crime and poverty are a constant reminder of better times. The area is sometimes referred to as “Fontucky” by the flyover crowd headed for more popular sites in the Golden State.
Allgeier is a product of what he was taught by his single mother, Ester, but he’s also a reflection of the tough city where he grew up and the football program he played for at Kaiser High School.
“We have a saying at Kaiser,” Cardosi said. “It goes, ‘We, not me.’ That’s the mentality of always doing what’s best for your team and that’s what Tyler did. As BYU Nation knows, he won the Arizona State game with that play. I texted Tyler right after that. I just told him, ‘My heart is full.'”
Allgeier is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 5,086 yards in his three seasons as a starter. His senior year (2017), Allgeier had back-to-back 300-yard games against Serano (341) and Palm Springs (310). He ran for 362 yards on 43 carries against San Dimas and in the last game of his high school career – a 63-28 loss to Rio Mesa in the CIF playoffs – he ran for 263 yards on 35 carries. He finished with 2,470 yards and 29 touchdowns, yet was barely a blip on the recruiting radar. Only Southern Nazarene, a Division II program in Oklahoma, offered him a scholarship, and a half-scholarship at that.
“I heard every excuse in the book by coaches,” Cardosi said. “I know coaching in college is hard, but everybody copies each other and no one would pull the trigger. They said Tyler was too stiff or too slow.”
At Summit High School in Fontana (the alma mater of former BYU and current Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams) was Steven Carr, a five-star recruit who rushed for 2,123 yards and 31 touchdowns the same season that Allgeier was a senior.
“Everyone was saying Carr was going to be a generational player and would be playing on Sundays,” Cardosi said. “No one wanted to talk about Tyler Allgeier.”
Carr rushed for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns in four seasons at USC before transferring to Indiana in 2021.
“No offense to Carr, but Tyler has surpassed what he’s done,” Cardosi said. “Tyler proved everybody wrong. I went from offensive coordinator to head coach before Tyler’s senior year so I was a young and I guess no one believed me.”
BYU believed in Allgeier enough to offer him a preferred walk-on spot in Provo.
“We know how it worked at BYU with missions,” Cardosi said. “There were no scholarships available, not yet. Tyler knew he would have to earn everything. That’s where greatness is built, when you’re doubted. It’s a driving force for a lot of athletes. I told him to work hard, stay humble and be great. Sometimes it’s going to be worse before it gets better. His college career kind of started that way.”
Cardosi said the morning after BYU played in the 2018 Idaho Potato Bowl, Allgeier called him.
“We were all on Christmas break but he wanted me to let him into the weight room at Kaiser,” Cardosi said. “Him and his mom worked out for two or three hours. He said, ‘I need to earn this.’ You can see the fruits of that now. Everybody in Provo can see that. He’s everything you’d ever want in a football player.”
Allgeier worked at Walmart collecting shopping carts the summer before his first year at BYU and Ester took out loans to pay his tuition as a preferred walk-on. In early 2020 – after moving from running back to linebacker and back to running back – BYU finally made Allgeier a scholarship player. He had a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2021, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. His 86-yard scoring run against Boise State started to dispel any concerns about his speed. Now, Allgeier is drawing interest from the NFL. Cardosi said he filled out some information requested by the Las Vegas Raiders just last week.
Kaiser is a very young team and started the 2021 season 1-3. This week in practice, Cardosi rolled the video of Allgeier’s game-saving play against Arizona State.
“That play came right on time for me to show my team during our bye week,” Cardosi said. “When things get hard, you put your head down and grind like Tyler. That play encompasses everything we want our players to be. It’s great to say that young man played in our football program. The coaches, we’re all like proud papas.”
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said the play made Allgeier look like a combination of Thor and The Incredible Hulk. A video edit on social media adds lightning and thunder when Allgeier punches the ball out of the defender’s hands.
The play has already gained almost mythical status.
“It doesn’t surprise anybody on this team or anybody around the program that knows this young man,” Sitake said. “Tyler is much faster than people give him credit for. Most people would go to make the tackle and this guy comes out of nowhere. It’s a good thing he can punch on target because if it was a little bit higher it would not be a good thing for us.
“He’ll do whatever it takes for the team. I feel like we have a bunch of guys on this team that would be willing to do that. It was his time to make the play and hopefully we can keep relying on big-time plays and effort like that.”
As for Allgeier, all the attention makes him uncomfortable.
“Tyler wants to move on already,” Sitake said. “He wants to get ready for South Florida. That’s why I love having this humble young man on our team.”
In his own words, Allgeier just wanted to recognize that he was playing a small part of his team’s success.
“It’s kind of a big deal for everyone else but it was just a 1/11th play by me for the team,” Allgeier said.
After making one of the greatest defensive plays in BYU history, Allgeier simply got up and walked back to the sideline.
He’ll let the praise roll off his back and just get back to the grind.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU BYU coach Kalani Sitake (left) talks to his team about running back Tyler Allgeier after a 27-17 victory against Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)
Jaren Wilkey/BYU BYU running back Tyler Allgeier runs away from the defense during a game against Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)