How versatile is Robert Tonyan Jr.? Well, if you look up his Indiana State bio from his freshman year of 2012, he’s listed as a quarterback.
“I came from a smaller town and played quarterback,” Tonyan told HERO Sports. “I was under-recruited, and not being a big-time high school player, I got a few MAC offers and some I-AA offers. I just thought my best chance would be to go to a I-AA schools.”
Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo all had several QBs on the roster. Some schools wanted a quarterback who was a bit faster, sort of funny today considering the 4.58-second time the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Tonyan would post in his Pro Day. Indiana State loved him, and he loved the program back.
It was the perfect fit.
As a redshirt freshman, Tonyan even earned a few starts at quarterback, throwing a touchdown against the Big Ten’s Indiana and against MVFC power Illinois State. But by the time his sophomore season rolled around in 2014, he was listed as a wide receiver, not a quarterback. And now, some pro scouts think he fits the mold of a tight end.
His Pro Day top 40-yard dash time (4.58) and broad jump (10 feet, 5 inches) and even his marks in the vertical jump (35 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.34 seconds) would have earned him elite status at the NFL Combine — which means basically he’d be a top six tight end in four measurable categories. He did even better at a regional combine earlier — 38-inch vertical, 4.51 seconds in the 40 and a 10’8″ in the broad jump.
Not surprisingly, all of this has turned some heads. But what position will he play?
“I get this question all the time, and I always answer that I’m just a football player,” Tonyan said. “If you want me to be a bigger receiver and focus on speed, or an undersized tight end, I’ll do that. I’ll put on weight and be a traditional tight end running and catching the ball, that’s fine.
“I’ve been through adversity. I know not everything is blueprint perfect with life. If somebody tells me this is the better option to make a career out of, I’ll do it.”
This is a consensus view of many FCS prospects — they were virtually ignored coming out of high school, haven’t been on national television every week, and have played in front of 10,000 fans in their bigger games — not 100,000 like Power Five Conference teams.
They don’t take things for granted, and the end result is a guy who’ll do what he’s asked to do. Work ethic and coachability aren’t as big a problem at this level.
Tonyan certainly has a good college resume. He leaves third in school history with 2,047 career receiving yards — only one yard shy of second. He finished with 150 career receptions, which is second all-time. He caught three touchdown passes in one game against Minnesota, showing he can be effective against the so-called “bigger schools”. Put simply, it’s been a productive career — and he’s ready to pivot to doing it in the NFL.
“I’m just taking this step by step, day by day,” Tonyan said. “It’s been a jammed pack stressful couple of months, but this is your future and this is the job you’re put all the time and effort into. Whether you end up somewhere or you don’t, it’s all riding on your shoulders.”