Penn State football: Tyler Yazujian a collegiate Renaissance man
That is probably the word that best describes Tyler Yazujian. A young man who has placed his eggs in many baskets — both academically and athletically — but in his own words thinks that he's "done pretty well, so far."
"Pretty well" is one way to put it, but when taking a closer look at what he has been able to do while on the University Park campus, it is extraordinary. Every Penn State student deals with classes and studies, while many of them are involved in clubs and extracurricular activities, but what Yazujian has done in five years is in some ways improbable.
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"I'm just a guy who comes in every day, does what is asked of him and doesn't need credit when he is doing well," Yazujian said. "I would call myself a hard worker, which is something that translates from the weight room to the practice field to the classroom to club baseball, to pretty much anything I involve myself in."
A native of Royersford, Pennsylvania, a suburb 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, he arrived on the University Park campus with his sights set on playing club baseball alongside his studies. He accomplished his first goal, making the club baseball roster — a program that is a regular contender on the national scene — following tryouts in November.
After practicing for a couple of weeks, he decided he would take a chance on earning a run-on spot for then-head football coach Bill O'Brien.
"I missed the [run-on] tryouts the first time, so I went out in when they had them again in December," Yazujian said. "When I made the team, I thought I was going to have to quit baseball, and that was tough for me because those were my closest friends. I had just come to college and I knew those guys really well."
He admits now that the opportunity to wear the iconic blue and white helmet was too good to pass up, but O'Brien — and now head coach James Franklin — gave Yazujian the opportunity to continue his interests with the club. In his four seasons on the diamond, he owns a 5-1 record on the mound with a 3.03 ERA in 46.2 innings of work.
"It has really made my college experience much more broad and fun," he said.
Broad and fun? It sounds more like hectic and exhausting, but the laid-back, mild-mannered fifth-year senior has taken it all in stride and excelled in every role he has assumed.
So much has he excelled on the field, he was awarded a scholarship by Franklin during the winter of 2016. The scholarship was special to Yazujian, even though he was already utilizing academic aid he was receiving from a CyberCorps Scholarship for Service, but for him it was more about representing the special teams unit and setting a great example each day.
"The scholarship wasn't about the money," Yazujian said, "it was more about gaining that mutual respect from teammates, coaches and administrators. Getting that acknowledgement from my teammates and coaches, especially as a long snapper, was great. We [specialists] don't always get noticed, which can be a good thing."
The decision wasn't hard for the coaching staff, as special teams coordinator Charles Huff said there was no hesitation in providing Yazujian with the scholarship he had earned, both on and off the field.
"When opportunities arise to reward someone for doing the right things on and off the field Coach Franklin is sure to do that," Huff said. "Yaz is a perfect example. He does the right things on and off the field and brings elite value to this team in a multitude of ways. We were excited to be able to reward him for his hard work, dedication and commitment to this program and this University."
While his athletic pursuits have been many, his biggest role to date is being a student. Many students arrive on campus with aspirations of chasing a double major, but few rarely follow through. Yazujian has again impressed by working on his undergraduate and master's degree coursework in chorus as a part of the first cohort in the College of IST's first Integrated Undergraduate/Graduate program offering.
"My [academic] program allows me to take my undergraduate and master's courses at the same time" he said. "The basis for the program is that instead of taking the conventional path of doing four years as an undergraduate and two more years in graduate school, you blend those together, shave a year off and get two degrees in five years."
Calculated, but still busy.
"Busy people get things done," Yazujian said.
That's a motto he lives by, and his resume shows that. When not on the gridiron or diamond, Yazujian has used his free time to work in the Red Cell Analytics Lab (RCAL) each summer. In 2014, he had an internship all but locked up with the Department of Homeland Security. The CoSIDA Academic All-American checked all of the boxes — academic, coursework and social — along clearing the vetting process for gaining top secret clearances, but the timing just wasn't right.
"I just wasn't able to make it work [with the Department of Homeland Security]," Yazujian said, "but I have done work relevant to homeland security. Working in the Red Cell Analytics Lab, I've created some scenario-based simulations that were used in the classroom."
In 2015, his samples found their way into U.S. Marine Corps Col. Jacob Graham's 400-level class based around deception and counter deception. Working with teammate Chris Gulla, the pair recreated and modified the 2007 Russian cyber-attacks.
"As a professor of practice, I do a lot of very hands on practical application analytic exercises or analytic decision games," Col. Graham said. "These are large scale simulations that allow students to solve the problems we see in our world today. Tyler has done a masterful job with some of things I have asked him to do over the last three years in helping create scenarios for my classes."
This past summer the RCAL utilized a program called GeoCue, software provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, to organizing freshman students in gathering data from around campus using social media. They used GeoCue to scrape that data off their devices and placed it into a geospatial tool to map out geo-location information from the social media profiles.
"The program [GeoCue] is basically used by disaster and quick response teams. This is software that can be used on a global level to help [government] departments decide where to allocate resources and where to send help," he said.
Nestled between Rec Hall and College Avenue, and spanning across Atherton Street, there are not many student-athletes on the UP campus venturing deep into the uniquely designed Information Sciences and Technology Building, but Yazujian spends countless hours in one of the most sophisticated labs on any college campus.
He will graduate from Penn State this spring with a bachelor's degree in security risk analysis and a master's degree in information science and technology.
"Right now I am taking two graduate level courses," Yazujian said. "I've finished all of my undergraduate coursework and now it is just a couple of graduate classes and finishing up my thesis.
"Plan A is to extend the football career, but realistically that is not an easy task. Whenever football ends, I have a position waiting at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as an analyst. I will hopefully be working there after graduation, but they understand my situation [with football]."
The comment rolled off his tongue effortlessly, as if that was exactly what he had calculated when he arrived in Happy Valley.