Before the 2016 college football season began, sometime around August, I sat with a friend of mine who possesses some inside knowledge of the Michigan State football program. “O’Connor to the pros,” he said, “Guy is so impressive this offseason. Making big throws.” I filed that tidbit of information away in my mind, but the conversation played out on loop during what amounted to a tough 2016 not only for Tyler, but the entire Spartan football family. Did injuries and a program-wide rebuilding year hamstring O’Connor’s development into an NFL-level quarterback? Did he need more time, more reps, more training, to flourish? O’Connor (@TylerOConnor7) is now in the midst of intense prep for MSU’s pro day and possibly being drafted or picked up as a UDFA. Tyler was gracious enough to answer some questions from Andrew Kraszewski, our resident Spartan writer.
AK: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Tyler, as I know this is probably a hectic period for you to say the least. The picture fans typically get of draft prep is of guys doing three-a-days and getting chased by George Whitfield with a broom, so first: is that accurate? What are the major differences between what you've been doing so far and your collegiate off-season?
O’Connor: The picture people paint isn't exactly wrong (for me at least). I have completely changed my diet and am taking this NFL draft process as serious as I possibly can. I workout at least twice a day for a total of about 3.5 - 4 hrs. About an hour and a half of it is throwing, and the other is working on quickness, speed, and strength training. My QB coach, Jeff Christensen, is great and has his own methodology to teaching his QBs. I am training extremely hard for this opportunity.
AK: How do you go about picking where to train, and with who? The pro day is presumably something the school is happy to set up for you, but in terms of picking your trainer and facility, where do you even start with that?
O’Connor: It all comes back to who you know and connecting yourself. I met Jeff Christensen through Kirk Cousins and Drew Stanton. He trains both of them and a couple years ago we decided that we would work together. He has some great ways of training. I have been making it my point to be where he is, which is in the Chicago area for now, as much as possible. Jeff goes out to Arizona to train NFL guys in February and I will join him there. On top of QB training, I will be doing my speed training at MSU with the strength coaches, along with another former MSU player, Todd Anderson. He runs a gym in the Chicago area called The Labs USA.
AK: Are you getting any pointers from former Spartans who have gone through this ahead of you? Drop some names, man, who are you looking to get in your ear?
O’Connor: The names above have certainly been of help. Connor Cook has also been a mentor going through this process when it comes to the interview process. (Three former MSU QBs in the NFL). I am accepting the help of anyone I can. The more you listen, the more you learn.
AK: What are your plans for draft day itself? Everyone's heard the story about Joe Thomas going fishing with his dad when his name was called in the first round, have you planned that far ahead or is it just one day at a time at this point?
O’Connor: At this point, I just plan on being with my family. I'm not sure exactly where it will be, but I would hope to just be hanging with my family, not watching the draft, and get a phone call.
AK: I imagine you're probably sick of this type of question, but obviously last season didn't pan out for MSU the way many people expected. Did you learn anything from those struggles that you think an NFL team will view as useful?
O’Connor: I would like to think so, yes. We went through a lot of adversity as a team, and as captains, we had to rally the team week in and week out and prepare for games even though our goals weren't in front of us. I had the respect and backing of all of my teammates and coaches throughout the whole season despite the losses, and I think that says a lot. My leadership and ability on the field were never questioned. I hope that NFL management sees this, and understands the leadership I bring. A lot of things go into a successful team, not just a QB. When it comes to what I was asked to do by my coaches, I did that on and off the field.