Ty Yazujian (Photo: Penn State Athletics)
Ty Yazujian gave up football after high school, yet played at Penn State and now coaches high school ball
by Jim McGrath, recruitNoVA
In the spring of 2012, as a six-foot, 205-pound high school senior, Ty Yazujian had to make a crucial decision about his future athletic career. The Royersford, PA native was a fairly good tight end and wide receiver, but not one who caught the attention of Division I college coaches. He had a couple of Division II offers, but mostly received correspondence from D-3 schools, and was looking at Susquehanna University to become the next stop on his athletic itinerary, particularly as the school looked prepared to accommodate him for football as well as his other sport, baseball.
In the end, Yazujian opted against college athletics altogether and decided to attend Penn State in order to pursue a degree in network security and intelligence. His athletic career, as he saw it, would be limited to club baseball and intramural football.
“I decided to go after a degree,” said Yazujian, reflecting on his final decision.
Or so he thought. As it turned out, his sports life was about to add at least one more chapter.
Mirroring a scene out of the movie “Invincible,” ironically based on Vince Papale and the Philadelphia Eagles, who played their home games just 35 miles from Royersford, the newly minted college freshman was adjusting to the academic lifestyle at State College, and “playing a little” with the club teams when he saw a sign that would change his life in a major way.
“PENN STATE FOOTBALL – “RUN-ON” TRYOUTS (ALL WELCOME)”
That was O’Brien’s term,” said Yazujian, referring to former Nittany Lion (and now Houston Texans) coach Bill O’Brien’s variable term of “run-on” as opposed to “walk-on,” for the open tryout camp to earn a spot on the Penn State roster. “He didn’t want anyone walking anywhere at practice.”
Once again, the young man was forced to adjust his plan.
“At my size, I knew that I couldn’t play tight end. I went into (the workout) thinking, I’ll just see what happens.”
Yet, as a forward thinker, Yazujian tried to devise an angle that would improve his chances of making the Penn State team. It became a choice that would change his life forever, and one that now allows him the opportunity to help others pursue their college football dreams, as he told an audience of coaches at the Nike Coach of the Year clinic in Herndon, VA last month.
“I looked through their roster and saw that they had only two long snappers, and both of them were seniors,” recalled Yazujian. I decided to try out as a long snapper because I knew I could do it, and it was the only realistic way I’d ever make the team.”
He had tried snapping in high school, but Yazujian played for a team that attempted few punts, extra points or field goals. “We usually went for it on fourth down, so I might have snapped the ball three times all year.”
However, his hopes grew as he attended the open tryout. “It was just the three of us snapping, the two seniors and me,” said Yazujian, who didn’t make the team, but received good news. “The coaches said, hey, we like you. Come back in December.”
As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.” Yazujian returned to the Penn State practice field in December and went on to become the Nittany Lions’ long snapper for three seasons (2014-16) before graduating in 2017.
At the Nike Clinic, Yazujian, who now coaches the long snappers and tight ends at W.T. Woodson High, hit on a number of topics in his presentation, including how to practice for game situations, approaching long snapping, the art of laces (on a football), and footwork, in a seminar he called “Coaching the Intricacies of Long Snapping for all Levels.”
To know Yazujian is to understand that his Cavalier players are probably also learning life lessons about preparation and setting themselves up for the next opportunity. They can use their coach’s approach to finding their first vocational job, as well as avocational.
Upon graduating from Penn State, Yazujian was invited to the Detroit Lions rookie camp, and worked out with the Ravens and Packers, but realized that the NFL wasn’t in his immediate future. But, as a two-time Academic All-American, he was prepared to take his first career step, and secured a job with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
He also realized that he wanted to coach.
“I was really looking for a side job. But I looked up all of the AD’s (athletic directors) in Northern Virginia and researched the programs. From there, I sent letters to a lot of coaches.”
Jared Van Acker, who at the time was the head coach at Battlefield, responded. “He was one of the few who gave me a shot.” The two hit it off immediately. “I went in for an interview and we talked about football for an hour. It didn’t seem like a job interview to me,” said Yazujian, who was hired.
However, his first position wouldn’t be with Battlefield, as Van Acker, who also served as the coordinator of the Nike clinic, took on the W.T. Woodson coaching position after Mike Dougherty left for Lake Braddock. With a late start, Van Acker was forced to hire coaches well into the season, and Yazujian didn’t join the team until the fourth week. Still, his positive impact was immediately felt.
“The staff we have here is awesome! We’re good at game planning and we work well together. I’m learning coaching, but working to make my niche on the team,” said Yazujian of the Cavalier staff. In fact, in just his first season, the new coach helped groom snapper Mike Bodvjich into a legitimate long snapper, and one who will join the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher team as a walk-on next year. “He has an awesome mentality,” said Yazujian, speaking of Bodvjich, ”and he’s way ahead of where I was at the high school level. I am committed to watching him play on Saturdays.”
In the meantime, Yazujian still plies his trade, practicing long snapping along with his Woodson athletes, building up his coaching chops, and looking for another tryout with the NFL. His best advice to long snappers, “If you have talent, you’ll be found. There are lots of avenues to pursue if you want to play in college.”
“It’s the best of both worlds,” summarized the coach, while speaking of his job coaching snappers while bettering his own skills and continuing on a path that started in the suburbs of Philadelphia and veered off-course and straight to Happy Valley.
– Jim McGrath