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Tyler Has Overcome Shortfall

College football: Only 5-7, he is the leading rusher for Montana State.


Lathian Tyler might have signed with any school in the Big Sky Conference . . . except Cal State Northridge.

Northern Arizona, Weber State and Montana State recruited Tyler, a 5-foot-7, 166-pound tailback who rushed for 1,775 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior for Diamond Bar High in 1995.

Tyler topped off his career by rushing for 119 yards in a 30-21 victory over Newbury Park in a memorable Southern Section championship game in 1995 at Moorpark College.

Tyler and quarterback Chris Czernek of Newbury Park shared Division III player-of-the-year honors that season. Tyler's jersey number was retired by his school.

For whatever reason, Northridge didn't recruit Tyler. Neither did many other California schools.

So, Tyler, a junior, will wear a Montana State uniform Saturday when the Bobcats (3-3, 1-2 in conference play) host Northridge (3-3, 2-2) in a Big Sky Conference game at Bozeman, Mont.

"It was between us and nobody," Coach Cliff Hysell of Montana State said. "His size, you know. He has good speed, but not great speed. Not many schools are going to look at a back his size."

Hysell is glad his staff took the time to look at him.

Despite a knee injury, Tyler is an integral part of the Bobcats' offense. He leads the team in rushing with 276 yards and he catches his share of passes in the Bobcats' run-and-shoot attack.

Tyler chose Montana State because he was being recruited as a running back. Some schools wanted Tyler as a defensive back, a position he played well in high school.

"I would be thinking running back, they would be thinking DB," said Tyler. "I was definitely looking to play running back."

The majority of Bobcats are from the upper Midwest, which has generally been the case in Hysell's seven seasons.

Tyler is one of only six players from Southern California.

"We try to recruit from here and Minnesota and Colorado," Hysell said. "You bring a kid up here from L.A. and it's big change for them. We don't want to change their environment too much. But it's been a good fit for him and a good fit for us."

For Tyler, who was born in Inglewood and never lived outside Southern California, adjusting to life in Bozeman, a town of 30,000, was difficult.

"Truthfully, it took me awhile to get used to it," Tyler said. "I was thinking about transferring the first year. I didn't like it up here and I told my mother I wanted to come home."

Tyler enjoyed playing before friends and family last season in a 32-26 victory over Northridge at North Campus Stadium. His seven-yard touchdown run with nine minutes to play gave the Bobcats their first lead.

Tyler finished the season by leading the team with 711 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

A recurring knee injury that required reconstructive surgery in 1997 led to arthroscopic surgery last spring. Tyler has been slow to recover, but he says he is finally healthy.

"I know I'm not fit to carry 20 to 25 times a game," Tyler said. "But I feel a whole lot better than last year."

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